MATTIS AT CENTCOM: Defense Secretary Jim Mattis took a small press contingent with him as he returns to his old stamping grounds in Tampa, Florida: U.S. Central Command, where he used be the top dog. Mattis will confer with CENTCOM chief Gen. Joseph Votel, and talk to rank and file, but most of his activities are closed to the press. “I always worry whether or not it’s going to be a waste of your time, because I got to do a lot of stuff behind closed doors,” Mattis told reporters aboard his Air Force C-32, the military version of the Boeing 757. Mattis did take a few questions from reporters before reverting to his preferred method of interacting with the media off the record.
THE NIGER AMBUSH: Mattis disputed the idea that the U.S. soldiers who came under attack in Niger last week did not have the benefit of a plan to swiftly evacuate them if they were in extremis. The 12-man team was meeting with villagers during what was supposed to be a routine patrol with Nigerien forces.