The Green Beret sergeant’s dry day became a key to unraveling the narrative spun by the elite Navy commandos whom military investigators now suspect killed him, officials familiar with the case said.
Melgar, a staff sergeant in the Army’s 3rd Special Forces Group, was specifically selected for an intelligence operation in the west African nation of Mali. He was well respected by the American Embassy staff and the partner forces there, a former U.S. Africa Command official said. But shortly before he died, Melgar told his wife that he had a bad feeling about two of his partners in that effort, both of whom were members of SEAL Team Six.
Not wanting to say much more, Melgar informed his wife, Michelle, that he’d tell her the full story when he got back home, according to an official speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation is still ongoing.
Now those two Navy SEALs are under investigation for killing Melgar—an investigation, first reported by the New York Times, sending shockwaves throughout the special-operations community. Military experts were hard-pressed to think of another case where elite U.S. troops turned on one another.
This account is based on five members of the special-operations community who were not cleared to speak publicly. Representatives of both U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) declined comment for this story, as the Navy Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) has an active investigation into Melgar’s death. NCIS would not comment beyond confirming the investigation is underway.
Dirty Money, Damning Excuse
There is a minimal U.S. troop presence in Mali at most—nothing compared to the 800 troops in neighboring Niger, another West African nation that hosts a sizable special operations cadre. But special operations forces aid U.S. diplomats, Malian soldiers and their French partners in gathering intelligence on a confluence of capable local militants trending Islamist. As the elite troops do in so many countries, they operate in the shadows, with comparatively little oversight—and what their actions actually look like on the ground can be much dirtier than the heroic image the Pentagon prefers to portray.
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