Friday, May 16, 2014

Nigeria: Update--US Defense Officials Criticize Nigerian Efforts to Rescue Kidnapped School-Girls

According to Reuters, a top US Defense Department official on Thursday (May 15) said Nigeria had been too slow to respond to the threat of Boko Haram, but Washington is committed to helping fight the Islamist militants and rescue over 200 girls seized from their school a month ago.

US officials have said the effort to retrieve the girls is now a top priority but has been complicated by Nigeria's early reluctance to accept assistance, and US rules banning aid to foreign forces that have committed human rights abuses.

"In general, Nigeria has failed to mount an effective campaign against Boko Haram," Alice Friend, the Pentagon's principal director for African Affairs, told a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Africa subcommittee.

Ms. Friend said it was troubling that atrocities have been perpetrated by some Nigerian forces during operations against the terror group. 
COMMENT: Appropriately vocal sentiments by the US are an indication that if the Nigerian government continues to resist well-intentioned foreign solutions, such governments may well evolve as being more a part of the problem than of the solution.

If the above statement emerges as being increasingly valid, those governments may, in time, contribute to the failure of rescue efforts.

The US Embassy in Abuja offered help almost immediately after the mass hostage-taking on April 15.  Yet, it was two weeks before U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to offer aid, which was accepted on May 4. 

Nigeria has been reluctant to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist threat at the United Nations, but Jackson said it has changed its position and he expected that designation imminently.

Delaware Senator Chris Coons (D-DE), the subcommittee chairman, said that the odds the girls would get home safely were diminishing every day.

"It took too long for the Nigerian government to respond to the girls' abduction. It took too long for the Nigerian government to accept offers of assistance from the United States, the United Kingdom, France and China, and once accepted, it took too long for that assistance to be fully implemented," Senator Coons emphasized.

The US officials said Boko Haram is a regional threat that is becoming transnational, with ties to al-Qaeda. They said the Pentagon and Department of State were developing a "regional response," including improved security along Nigeria's borders with Chad, Niger and Cameroon.

"We've determined that there are links between al-Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb (AQIM) and Boko Haram.