When four US special forces soldiers died in an ambush earlier this month in scrubby desert in western Niger, attention was suddenly focused on one of the most remote and chaotic war zones on the planet.
The US troops had been embedded with a larger unit of Nigerien troops and were attacked as they left a meeting with local community leaders a few dozen kilometres from the remote town of Tongo Tongo.
Some reports claimed US troops were on a mission to kill or capture a high-value target in the area, perhaps even Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahraoui, the leader of the only local faction of fighters to have formally pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.
Given the light armament of the US detachment, the scramble to evacuate them, and the lack of medical backup or reinforcements, this seems unlikely. The US troops were eventually rescued by French aircraft, which flew from bases about 300 miles away in neighbouring Mali.