Africom chief wants combat pay for troops in Niger

Matt Saintsing
March 06, 2018 - 2:09 pm

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jeremy Laboy

The head of U.S. Africa Command is seeking danger pay for troops deployed to Niger, a move that is arguably long overdue.

While testifying before the House Armed Services Committee Tuesday, U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, commander of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), revealed that even though that request was submitted “months ago,” American service members currently in Niger aren’t getting the extra cash.

“We had already submitted a packet for Niger to qualify for imminent danger pay and understand it’s at the national level now for final approval,” Waldhauser said. 

The request was previously sent to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and is now at the White House Office of Management and Budget, he added.

Currently, U.S. Troops in Niger aren’t eligible for hostile fire pay. Even the ones who found themselves in a firefight against ISIS in October, which left four American soldiers dead and two wounded, didn’t get the additional $225 per month.

This disturbing revelation was first reported by NBC News last week.

There are about 800 troops deployed in Niger, including Army Special Forces teams, however, they don’t get danger pay like other countries that are considered less dangerous for U.S. forces, like Kenya.

An ambush in early October in a remote area in western Niger has shined a light on American military involvement in Africa. On Monday, the Associated Press reported that AFRICOM’s report on the ambush would find that the team of U.S. Army Green Beret’s did not get the appropriate authorization to execute its mission to capture a high-level Islamic State leader.

Photo by Senior Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz/DoD

“Why should we care?” Rep. Mac Thornberry, a Texas Republican who is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, asked Waldhauser at the hearing. Is there anything in Africa that “justifies sending United States men and women in risk of their lives?” he asked.

The goal, Waldhauser said, is to contain extremist groups in places such as Niger, Mali, and Somalia and to develop local forces to lead the fight against terrorism.

“At the present time they do not have the capability to conduct operations in the United States, but they certainly aspire to do that,” said Waldhauser. “We are trying to prevent something from happening before it does.”

American troop presence has steadily increased on the continent, especially in places like Somalia and Niger. In 2017, the U.S. conducted 34 airstrikes in Somalia, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.