WASHINGTON - The Pentagon this week approved danger pay for U.S. troops serving in Niger, Mali and portions of Cameroon, nearly nine months after it was requested by the commander and five months after four American soldiers were killed in an ambush in Niger.
The memo signed Monday by Robert Wilkie, the undersecretary of defense, approves retroactive payments going back to last June 7, which is when the additional money was requested by Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, head of U.S. Africa Command.
Maj. Carla M. Gleason said that such requests are evaluated independently, "taking into account the combatant commander's recommendation, the classified risk analysis, and any other information deemed relevant." She said it often takes time for the requests to be reviewed and either approved or rejected, but the retroactive pay is typically awarded.
She said that Wilkie determined that troops in the three countries met the criteria for danger pay, which can include being in an area where there is a threat of physical harm or imminent danger due to "civil insurrection, civil war, terrorism, or wartime conditions."
Until now, troops serving in all or certain parts of more than 30 countries and portions of the Mediterranean Sea and the waters around Somalia were eligible for imminent danger pay, which is $225 per month, or pro-rated at $7.50 per day. Of those, at least 14 are in Africa. This decision adds three more African nations. The additional money is expected to affect at least several hundred service members.
As a result of the decision, all of the US. soldiers involved in the October ambush by insurgents linked to the Islamic State will receive the retroactive danger pay for the length of time they were in the country. The Army had already approved hostile fire pay for the four soldiers killed in the attack, which is the same amount of money as danger pay.
Four U.S. soldiers and four Nigerien troops were killed on Oct. 4 about 120 miles (200 kilometers) north of Niamey, Niger's capital, when they were attacked by as many as 100 Islamic State-linked militants traveling by vehicle and carrying small arms and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. Two other American soldiers and eight Nigerien forces were wounded.
An investigation into the incident has been completed and is under review by Pentagon leaders.