Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford believes the military needs to provide more details to the families of the four servicemen killed Oct.4 in Niger in western Africa.
The soldiers were members of the Special Operations Task Force, which is involved in a mission to train and assist troops in Niger to combat Islamist rebels, the Department of Defense reported.
Dunford stated Oct. 23 that an inquiry into what happened during the firefight and subsequent evacuation has been initiated.
"We owe the families of the fallen more information, and that's what the investigation is designed to identify," added Dunford, the Department of Defense reported.
The U.S. forces were on patrol with troops from Niger when around 50 fighters from a group linked to ISIS attacked them. As well as the four deaths, two U.S. soldiers suffered injuries.
The general defended the presence of American troops in the region.
"Our soldiers are operating in Niger to build the capacity of local forces to defeat violent extremism in West Africa," Dunford said. "Their presence is part of a global strategy."
He noted that terrorist groups take advantage of countries whose armed forces are incapable of maintaining control over their own territory.
"As we've seen many times, groups like ISIS and al-Qaida pose a threat to the United States, the American people and our allies," added Dunford. "They're a global threat enabled by the flow of foreign fighters, resources and their narrative."
According to an intelligence official, the original mission was supposed to have been a one-day, routine patrol. But after the mission got under way, the plans were changed.
The soldiers were heading back after completing the reconnaissance mission when they received orders to turn around and kill or capture a high-profile target, ABC News reported Oct. 24.
The official stated that the target was code-named Naylor Road, and has ties to al-Qaida as well as ISIS. Intelligence sources suggest he is the third-highest priority target for the U.S. in Niger.
When the soldiers arrived at the designated location, they found nothing. They then began returning to the south and stopped off in a village early in the morning of Oct. 4.
As they left the village, the fighters ambushed the convoy.
One of the survivors told ABC News that Sgt. La David Johnson, one of the victims, was a war hero.
"Without a doubt, his courage and bravery in action that day were above and beyond expectations," said the survivor. "He died fighting for his brothers on his team. You can quote that verbatim. He grabbed any and every weapon available to him."