WASHINGTON, June 5 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. Department of Defense on Wednesday drew ire as it signaled unwillingness to reprimand senior officers over a deadly military operation in 2017.
"Having examined an independent review by a senior general officer of the investigation into the 2017 ambush in Niger, I am satisfied that all findings, awards, and accountability actions were thorough and appropriate," Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said in a statement.
The review, conducted by Army General Robert Brown, have led seven Green Berets and a two-star Air Force general to be reprimanded, but not for other senior officers in the chain of command, including a Green Beret colonel who was the senior special operations commander for Northwest Africa at the time.
Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego slammed Shanahan for refusing to pursue further punishments on other senior officers that have led to the fatal attack.
"We asked the Department of Defense to police themselves, and this is a big failure on their part, they're just papering over a problem to get rid of it. You don't want to have Congress come in and investigate," Gallego, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, said.
A team of U.S. soldiers were attacked by local militants in Niger on Oct. 4, 2017, resulting in the deaths of four U.S. soldiers.
The incident raised questions on the missions U.S. military was conducting in the region and the circumstances under which the soldiers were killed. The Pentagon claimed that the troops were deployed in Niger to train the country's counterterrorism forces and were not prepared for combat.
Later investigations led by the U.S. Congress and the Department of Defense discovered that the team was ill prepared for the mission and the planning of the mission was flawed.