Photo: Army Staff Sergeant Logan Melgar, who died suspiciously in June 2017, while serving in Mali, with his father. Credit: Frenship ISD - Photo: 2017

Death of 4 Soldiers Opens Window on Secret U.S. Operations in West Africa

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK (IDN) – With the deaths of four American servicemen in Niger, a window has opened onto U.S. operations in West Africa – an area barely known even to U.S. legislators who have sent U.S. soldiers there in harm’s way.

The latest soldier to die on a tour in the French-speaking region is Texas-born Staff Sergeant, Logan J. Melgar, a Latino. His death in Mali is attributed to strangulation and two elite members of the U.S. Navy Seal Team Six are being investigated for his murder.

Melgar’s Special Forces teammates were there at the request of Paul Folmsbee, U.S. ambassador to Mali for a previously undisclosed and highly unusual clandestine mission to support French and Malian counterterrorism forces battling Al Qaeda’s branch in North and West Africa, as well as smaller cells aligned with Al Qaeda or the Islamic State, according to the New York Times.

The Navy SEALs were assigned to help with training and counterterrorism missions. They took part in two operations in Mali before Melgar’s death, according to the New York Times.

While Americans are being deployed to “advise and assist,” as military officials say, and not engage in combat missions, military plans for the region suggest greater engagement with insurgent groups on the ground.

But “claiming troops are only ‘assisting’ or ‘training’ local forces is the way the U.S. military establishes a foothold in a country while telling everyone they don’t engage in “combat”, says free speech activist Trevor Timm, writing in the British Guardian news. “Then, when they inevitably do get in a firefight and a soldier gets killed – as happens time and time again – it provides an excuse to expand the mission even more.”

“Niger is the perfect illustration of America’s permanent war posture around the world,” Timm added, “where Special Forces fight various militants with little or no public scrutiny and no congressional authorization.”

“You’re going to see more actions in Africa, not less; you’re going to see more aggression by the United States toward our enemies, not less; you’re going to have decisions being made not in the White House but out in the field,” South Carolina Sen. Lindsey O. Graham said after a briefing by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on a possible expansion of the U.S. military’s ability to use lethal force in Niger.

Meanwhile, neither the U.S. nor France has offered a plan to lift Nigeriens out of extreme poverty and French companies maintain a stranglehold on Niger’s uranium mining, setting prices, and keeping most of the profits.

According to the World Nuclear Association, Uranium was discovered at Azelik in Niger in 1957 by the French Bureau de Recherches Geologiques et Minières (BRGM), looking for copper. The French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) initiated further studies. Further discoveries in sandstone followed including at Abokurum (1959), Madaouela (1963), Arlette, Ariege, Artois & Tassa/Taza (1965), Imouraren (1966) and Akouta (1967). In the midst of this, Niger became independent of France in 1960.

In 1964 the coal deposit of Thirozerine was also discovered. It is currently operated by SONICHAR and produces electricity for the northern Agadez region, including the uranium mines.

Historically, uranium mining in Gabon has been closely linked with Niger due to the role of the French Atomic Energy Commission and Cogema (now Areva NC).

Areva’s Niger website documents some of the wider issues involved with its long-term activity in the country. Areva claims that “in 2013, 90% of the direct revenue from the mines went to the state of Niger.” [IDN-InDepthNews – 31 October 2017]

Photo: Army Staff Sergeant Logan Melgar, who died suspiciously in June 2017, while serving in Mali, with his father. Credit: Frenship ISD

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate –

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