Gaetz urges House investigative hearing on ‘failed foreign policy’ that ‘endangered’ US troops

FIRST ON FOX: Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., is urging the House Armed Services Committee to summon Secretary of State Antony Blinken for congressional testimony to assess how the State Department’s “failed foreign policy decisions” have “endangered” U.S. forces in Africa.

“The intended purpose of this investigative hearing is to ensure the Global Fragility Strategy (GFS) isn’t negatively impacted by DoS’ recent failures in Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso that have led to a loss of security access for U.S. forces,” Gaetz wrote to Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Ala., on Thursday. 

Gaetz said the hearing is “in the interest of my constituents,” as U.S. troops were notified over the weekend they would be removed from Niger, just a day after Gaetz published a report on what he called the State and Defense Departments’ “coverup of security concerns and mistreatment of service members.


The Florida Republican is also requesting testimony from Assistant Secretary of State Molly Phee, assistant to the US-AID administrator for conflict prevention and stabilization Robert Jenkins, and Defense’s director of counternarcotics and stabilization policy Joseph McMenamin, regarding policies and strategies that Gaetz believes compromised the safety of U.S. service members in Africa.

Gaetz’s report, which included interviews with U.S. service members, claimed the Biden administration is “actively suppressing intelligence reports” about U.S. military relations in Niger, and that troops are being “held hostage” without access to mail, medical supplies, equipment and other materials.

“With a military junta in charge – who detests our presence and considers us unserious and predatory – the situation seems to be setting the groundwork for catastrophic diplomatic collapse like we saw during the 2012 Benghazi attack,” the report said. “Additionally, these troops are already running short on necessary, life-saving supplies, such as blood and medications.”

Though Gaetz claimed victory amid the administration’s announcement last weekend that they plan to pull troops from the African nation, a Biden administration official told Fox News Digital the “decision did not have any sort of connection to Representative Gaetz.”


A State Department spokesperson also said they “categorically reject” the assertion “that U.S. forces deployed to Niger are being ‘held hostage.’”

“We maintain a professional relationship with the Nigerien military, and prudent force protection measures continue unabated,” a spokesperson told Fox News Digital this week. “Senior leaders at the Department of State, the Department of Defense, and the U.S. Embassy in Niamey continue to work together closely to ensure U.S. forces deployed to Niger have the support and services they need.”

Gaetz fired back at the department’s response, arguing “the State Department also said Niger was a ‘model of resilience, democracy, and cooperation,’ so maybe, just maybe, they don’t have a full grasp on what is going on in Niger.”

Relations have frayed between Niger and Western countries since mutinous soldiers ousted the country’s democratically elected president in July. Niger’s junta has since told French forces to leave and turned instead to Russia for security. Earlier this month, Russian military trainers arrived to reinforce the country’s air defenses and with Russian equipment to train Nigerians to use.


The planned departure, which some experts view as a blow to Washington and its allies in the region in terms of staging security operations in the Sahel, comes as U.S. officials said they were trying to find a new military agreement.

Niger plays a central role in the U.S. military’s operations in Africa’s Sahel region, an area on the edge of the Sahara Desert. Washington is concerned about the spread of jihadi violence, as local groups have pledged allegiance to al Qaeda and Islamic State groups.

Niger is home to a major U.S. air base in the city of Agadez, about 550 miles from the country’s capital of Niamey. The air base has been used for manned and unmanned surveillance flights and other operations. The U.S. has also invested hundreds of millions of dollars in training Niger’s military since it began operations there in 2013.

A U.S. defense official confirmed the beginning stages of the removal process in a statement to Fox News Digital on Saturday, saying discussions between the U.S. and Niger for the “orderly removal” of troops had started.

“We can confirm the beginning of discussions between the U.S. and Niger for the orderly withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country,” the official said.

The Associated Press and Fox News’ Kyle Morris contributed to this report.