Shanahan approves punishments over Niger ambush after long delay

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan has approved the decision to discipline at least eight military officers over their role in the October 2017 Niger ambush that left four American soldiers dead and sparked a debate about the role of US troops in Africa after a Green Beret-led team found itself under attack by some 100 ISIS-linked fighters, according to two US officials familiar.

Shanahan surprised many, including some lawmakers on Capitol Hill, when he announced in April that he had ordered a review into the investigation and its findings regarding military awards and punishments for those involved.

He decided not to recommend any further punishments. Politico first reported Shanahan’s decision.

“Following an extensive investigation into the attack, the Department of Defense identified numerous areas for improvement and lessons learned to help prevent this type of incident from occurring again in the future. After a thorough review of those reports, Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan concurred with all of the findings, awards and accountability,” Pentagon spokesperson Cdr. Candice Tresch said in a statement.

Shanahan tasked Gen. Robert Brown, the commander of US Army Pacific, with conducting an independent review of the findings of the military’s months-long investigation into the incident. That review recommended that no changes be made and Shanahan approved the findings on May 29, the officials tell CNN.

The original investigation found numerous institutional failures that contributed to the deadly ambush in Niger.

The Army has approved valor awards for several of the soldiers involved in the incident.

Staff Sgt. LaDavid Johnson and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, two of the soldiers who were killed in the ambush, are to receive the Silver Star.

Staff Sgt. Bryan Black and Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson, who were also killed in the attack, will receive the Bronze Star.

Two additional members of the Green Beret-led team will receive the Silver Star.