Multiple “individual, organizational, and institutional failures” were to blame for the deaths of four U.S. soldiers last year in Niger, but no disciplinary action is being recommended for those involved, Pentagon officials said Thursday.

Insufficient training and preparation, command mistakes, lack of attention to detail and an outnumbered force taken by surprise in an attack all contributed to the loss of the soldiers, according to an eight-page report summarizing an internal investigation.

U.S. Africa Command (Africom) head Marine Corps Gen. Thomas Waldhauser said changes have already been made in his command, Special Operations Command and the Army at large to improve troop safety and preparation in Africa.

“I take ownership of all the events connected to the ambush of 4 October,” Waldhauser told reporters at the Pentagon. “Again, the responsibility is mine.”


What exactly happened: The Oct. 4 battle between U.S. and Nigerien forces and three times as many enemy combatants came after the group left Camp Ouallam in Niger on Oct. 3 to hunt for a high-ranking Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant linked to the kidnapping of a U.S. aid worker, the military said.

Leaders of the team had submitted a different mission to higher command for approval, according to the report.

When the ISIS militant was not found, troops were ultimately redirected to a mission to gather intelligence on the militant, which they completed before stopping near the village of Tongo Tongo to get water. The group then conducted an impromptu meeting with village leaders and were ambushed after leaving.

The four U.S. troops killed in action “sustained wounds that were either immediately fatal or rapidly fatal,” and were not captured alive by the enemy, according to the report.

What will come next: Defense Secretary James Mattis has directed Waldhauser to complete in four months a review of shortfalls in training, procedures and planning.

Waldhauser added that in the meantime, “we are now far more prudent in our missions.”

“We’ve increased the firepower, we’ve increased the [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] capacity, we’ve increased various response times,” he said. “We have beefed up a lot of things, posture wise.”

No punishments yet: Waldhauser also said the findings “call out individuals for certain activities,” but Special Ops “will have the responsibility for taking appropriate action to ensure accountability.”

“We don’t recommend punishment, we recommend appropriate action,” he said.

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