The nation's top general said the military must explain to the nation and the families of the fallen what the services are doing in Africa and what led to the ambush that killed four U.S. soldiers in Niger on Oct. 4.
"We owe the families as much information as we can find out about what happened, and we owe the American people an explanation of what their men and women were doing at this particular time," Gen. Joseph Dunford, Joint Chiefs chairman, told reporters on Monday. "When I say that I mean men and women in harm's way anywhere in the world. They should know what the mission is and what we're trying to accomplish when we're there."
Dunford was responding to a reporter who had pointed out that other members of the administration have hinted that journalists should not be asking questions about the events leading up to the ambush and the military's response.
"[Questions about the operation] are all fair questions in my judgment," Dunford said, without responding to the specific allegation. "In other words, that's why we're out here today, is to take your questions and provide as much information as we have. The only thing I'm asking for today is a bit of patience to make sure that what we provide to you when we provide it is factual.
"And the other thing I think that is also important is when this information is finally available, the first thing we're going to do is go visit the families in their homes should they welcome us," he added.
Last week, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis asked reporters not to second-guess the troops' actions after the ambush and that troops do not leave other service members behind.
"One point I would make having seen some of the news reports, the U.S. military does not leave its troops behind and I would just ask you not question the actions of the troops who were caught in the firefight and question whether or not they did everything they could in order to bring everyone out at once," Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday. "And I would also ask you don't confuse your need for accurate information with our ability to provide it immediately in a situation like this."
Dunford also responded to criticism from some members of Congress, who have complained they're in the dark on details of the mission and what the U.S. is doing in Niger.
"With regard to Congress, I've heard the criticism of we're not providing enough information, and the way I've taken that is to say, if the Congress doesn't believe that they're not getting sufficient information, I need to double my efforts to provide them with information," he said.