Foreign Policy Digital

Used to Afghanistan, Special Operators Suffer From Lack of Support in Africa

Now they fear restrictions on their mission.

Fighting for their lives after driving with their Nigerien partners into a withering ambush, 11 members of the 3rd Special Forces Group called for close air support. Two French Mirage jets arrived an hour later. And when they showed up, the jets merely buzzed the battlefield and didn’t drop any bombs on the militants attacking the U.S.-Nigerien patrol.

Four U.S. soldiers, four Nigerien troops, and an interpreter died in the Oct. 4 battle. It was a bitter reminder to the 3rd Group that it was no longer in Afghanistan, the combat theater where the Fort Bragg, North Carolina-based unit had been focused from 2002 until late 2015. There, its teams could call in airstrikes often instantaneously and almost always within minutes. But since switching from Afghanistan to North and West Africa, the group has had to grapple with what its veterans repeatedly refer to as the continent’s “tyranny of distance,” combined with a

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