The aide said questions are being asked about whether the U.S. soldiers were intentionally delayed in the village they were visiting. He said they began pursuing some men on motorcycles, who lured them into a complex ambush. The enemy force had “technical” vehicles — light, improvised military vehicles — and rocket-propelled grenades, the official said. – by KEN DILANIAN and COURTNEY KUBE [NBC News]
WHAT IS the United States doing in Niger? The spot on the African continent where four gallant U.S. Green Berets were recently ambushed and killed. Drone bases.
A story on The Intercept about a drone base in Niger gave me the idea.
Niger became a way to build T.J. Gale’s character. He’s the hero in books 1 and 2 of The Beltway Series, which is now complete. It also helped explain his company, Force Protection. A private military contract operation that is on the periphery of Beltway Betrayers.
There is plenty of action in my books but I wanted to explain T.J.’s work in a way that was central to a turn in the story.
Potential clients want to meet T.J. about Niger. They come recommended so he agrees to the meeting that ends up testing him. It’s objective is to lead T.J. and his team on a dead end chase. This scene helped readers to understand T.J.’s private military company.
Add fictional elements for narrative flow. Here’s the excerpt on Niger from Beltway Betrayers…
The men that he and Ben were sitting down with were from Niger, located on the edge of the Sahara desert in northern Africa. Their work was moored in a place called Agadez, which had been in the headlines over the past year for several reasons. One was the disappearing life that many in Africa were experiencing, which was turning a populace into migrants desperately fleeing drought. Arguments about climate change had long been proven on the ground in Africa, especially in countries in the southern region of the continent.
But for T.J.’s LSS and the team he had assembled, it didn’t feel like a fit.
The change on the ground in Africa was leaving large numbers of desperate young men with no hope because their way of life has evaporated. Families didn’t have the basic requirements for living, including money to buy food in a place where cows and goats had turned into commodities to bargain and sell in order to survive.
The altruism that was at the foundation of LSS, T.J.’s clean-energy venture, wasn’t shared in the security division of the company Force Protection. The team worked in dangerous locales where niceties got you killed. Many of T.J.’s newest global clients were situated at the nexus of climate change and displacement, where gangs, international terrorist groups, and well-known players like al Qaeda took advantage of the shifting circumstances.
T.J. read a brief on the company asking for an escort to Agadez, Niger, but nothing made sense.
An article included in the brief by The Intercept wasn’t the first time he’d heard about the massive U.S. military base in Niger. The Intercept reported, “The top MILCON [military construction] project for USAFRICOM is located in Agadez, Niger, to construct a C-17 and MQ-9 capable airfield.” A lot of action is in Africa, including the U.S. special-operations facility, Camp Lemonnier, located in Djibouti, in the Horn of Africa. The proximity to the Arabian Peninsula made it a magnet for international forces, the latest being China.
T.J. had innumerable contacts inside the U.S. African Command, known as AFRICOM. U.S. Special Forces and the Niger army worked together on training missions, with American trucks and other high-grade materials being relocated to Niger, a country that welcomed U.S. dollars. The U.S. Department of Defense’s Global Train and Equip program had been a godsend to the poor nation at the center of a climate-changing nightmare.
North Africa was a hell scape, which meant a rich environment for international corporations. Nigeria was in the center of action that included terrorist threats that plagued Cameroon, Chad, and Niger, enveloping the entire region. Nigeria’s Boko Haram had morphed from an Islamic sect into a radically violent force, known most infamously for abducting 276 girls. Al Qaeda and its offshoots threatened stability as well. The Horn of Africa was facing yet another drought and season of starvation.
“I’ve got contacts with the U.S. contingent inside Niger, so we could get you and your team settled, but it won’t be smooth,” T.J. said.
The three men listened intently, but asked no questions.
“The second your people land, they’ll become a target, so you’d have to get everything locked down and set up inside the compound before we could even think of bringing over your executive team,” T.J. said. “My group has done the financials and we’ve been working on your requests, as well “as assessing the challenges. Have you chosen a permanent security team like we advised?”
“We appreciate all the details you’re explaining,” one man said. The other two nodded.
“You need to be prepared for anything, because the 21st Century version of cowboys and Indians will light your hair on fire,” Ben said.
The men stared at Ben, and T.J. smiled.
“What Mr. Cates is trying to tell you is that this is going to be dangerous. You will need a team who can guarantee your entire company will be safe upon arrival. You’ll be the responsible party for everyone, and they have to understand the risks before anyone sets foot there. And, again, you must retain professionals to maintain your security. Force Protection can help get you connected through our partners, but we don’t do onsite security on the African continent.”
“Malcolm Steele can put you in touch with a couple of teams that we trust,” Ben said. “And by ‘trust’ we mean they’ve actually been able to keep their clients safe when the bottom drops out, because it usually does at some point.”
“I have to be frank,” T.J. said. “This job isn’t a natural fit for Force Protection. But I’m curious. You said we came recommended, but you didn’t say by whom.”
“Your reputation in the industry is impressive,” one man said.
The answer was too vague for T.J.’s tastes. It didn’t cut it for the gravity of the conversation.
“We appreciate that, but I must advise you to expand your meetings. Force Protection is not the right fit for this job. Now, please excuse me. I’ve got to take another meeting. Mr. Cates can steer you in the right direction.”
T.J. walked out of the room and made a call to Malcolm.
“How did the meeting go?” he asked.
“Complete bullshit. I know we had to have a presence at the conference, but I’m trying to figure out what in the hell we’re doing taking a meeting with these guys. Agadez? We have no business there. They need a larger team with more history inside that region,” T.J. said.” … …
Dangerous scenarios occur in my books.
Foreign policy has been a passion of mine for decades. The drone base in Niger, as well as the one being built in Cameroon reveal how far and how thin the U.S. military is stretched.
Senator John McCain threatening the Pentagon hierarchy with subpoenas illustrates how little we know about what’s going on in our name in Africa.
Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, 35, of Puyallup, Washington; Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio; and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, of Lyons, Georgia, were killed along with La David Johnson in Niger. [USA TODAY]