"Support from French aircraft and a Nigerien quick-reaction force was prompt, and the French aviation effort, specifically, "likely saved the lives of the surviving members" of the U.S. Special Operations Force team", according to the investigation summary. They also prohibited units from relying on a specific kind of mission planning process - as was used in the fateful October 4 patrol - that gave more autonomy to troops on the ground.
"We are now far more prudent on our missions", he added.
A lengthy investigation discovered that the USA soldiers did not call for air support until 53 minutes after contact with the enemy forces began.
At least five Nigerien soldiers also were killed, and other soldiers were wounded, including two Americans. "They started back and they got like two hours or so from their home base and they got a change of mission to go to another location back north like four hours away to act as a blocking force for another team was coming in with helicopters to hit the target".
The Oct. 4 ambush by militants aligned with the Islamic State led to the largest reported loss of USA soldiers serving in Africa since "Black Hawk Down" in Somalia in 1993.
Waldhauser said changes already have been made in the way military activities are carried out in Niger and elsewhere in Africa.
While the team mischaracterized this mission, the report did not find a direct link between that and the ambush that killed the four US soldiers.
The investigation found the members of the Special Forces team - in Niger to train and assist that nation's forces to fight terrorism - had spent insufficient time training together before deployment, misled higher-ups about the intention of their initial mission, were twice re-tasked to other missions and failed to report they were taking enemy fire until almost an hour after the ambush started.
Army Sergeant La David Johnson and Staff Sergeants Bryan Black, Jeremiah Johnson and Dustin Wright were killed in the ensuing firefight. Gen. Roger L. Cloutier Jr., Africom's chief of staff and the investigating officer, briefed Pentagon reporters today on the results.More news: Harry's wedding will be 'very special' say Charles and Camilla
The report commends the fallen soldiers, and says they "gave their last full measure of devotion to our country and died with honor while actively engaging the enemy".
A summary of the report released Thursday details the need for improved mission planning and approval processes, in addition to a review of weapon requirements and training exercises with US -allied forces, according to The Associated Press. None were captured alive by the enemy, and all died immediately or quickly from their wounds, it said.
The combat - along with at least 10 other previously unreported attacks on US troops in West Africa from 2015 to 2017 - indicated that the deadly October 4 ambush was not an isolated episode in a country where the United States is building a major drone base.
After months of silence during the investigation, Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, head of U.S. Africa Command, laid out the findings and took responsibility for what happened.
A quick reaction force of Nigerien troops found the bodies of the three soldiers, Cloutier said. Members of the elite Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) were ordered into action to assist in the search, the officials said, though it wasn't clear whether they ever participated. Cheffou had left by the time Team 3212 arrived and the eight-vehicle convoy stopped in Tongo Tongo for water.
The two USA trucks with machine guns went first, Wright said, leaving behind the truck his son Dustin was driving that had no mounted gun. La David Johnson, 25.
The bodies of two of the soldiers were found in the back of abandoned pickup truck, with a third body lying alongside it on the ground.
Black and Wright were members of the Green Berets, while both Johnsons were conventional soldiers assigned to the same 3rd Special Forces Group team.
"The whole thing was a screwed-up mess", said Arnold Wright, father of Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright of Lyons, Georgia, who was killed in the attack. He said he's concerned that the Army may be pinning the blame on lower-ranking soldiers and not accepting responsibility high enough up the chain of command.