Did US troops die in Niger protecting French and Chinese uranium?

America was surprised when U.S. troops in Niger were ambushed, with four killed, on October 4.  Why are more than 1,000 U.S. soldiers in this desolate region of western Africa, in one of the world's least developed nations?

According to Secretary James Mattis at the Department of Defense, America's mission there is "supporting the French-led and the African troops in the campaign to throw ISIS and the terrorists, the radicals, those who foment instability and murder and mayhem, off their stride." 

Until 1958, landlocked Niger was a French colony bordered by oil-rich Libya to the north and oil-rich Nigeria to the south.  Niger has far less oil than its neighbors but has good reason to be fought over both for territory and one key resource.

"France gets about 75 percent of its electricity from nuclear reactors," the New York Times reported in 2013, and that year France dramatically increased its military forces in Niger to protect its uranium mines.  No wonder the terrorists attacking Americans were driven off minutes later by French fighter jets streaking to the rescue.

Eighty percent of Niger citizens do not know that their country's northern desert has uranium, which Business Insider described in 2015 as "the world's fifth-largest recoverable uranium reserves, some 7% of the global total."

A handful of uranium mines account for roughly a third of all of Niger's exports and supply a third of France's reactor fuel (and possibly the key ingredients for its nuclear weapons as well).  No wonder France and its American allies are willing to pay a price to keep these radioactive isotopes flowing, avoid terrorist disruptions, and prevent Islamists from seizing this potential source of A-bomb material.

France is not the only uranium mine investor in Niger.  China also has reportedly committed to investing $300 million and owns a 37-percent share of the Azelik mine, along with the Niger government plus one other Chinese and one Korean investor in a joint partnership called Somina.

President Barack Obama sent U.S. military forces to Niger in 2013, apparently to support the French buildup to protect France's vital uranium mines from Islamists.  In October 2017, this cost four American lives.  But did these courageous soldiers implicitly also die to defend a communist Chinese uranium mine, a potential source of China's nuclear weapons?  This is one of the questions President Donald Trump's administration should answer this week.

How ironic that the Obama administration, which gave Russia 20 percent of America's uranium reserves and allowed his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, to pocket $145 million from the deal, was also willing to put the lives of American troops on the line to defend France's – and communist China's – uranium.

Lowell Ponte is a veteran think-tank futurist and author or co-author of eight books.  His latest, Money, Morality & The Machine, co-authored with monetary expert Craig R. Smith, is available free and postpaid by calling 800-630-1492.  Mr. Ponte can be reached for interviews at radioright@aol.com.