Tuesday Platform

July 2, 2013

US alarming misreading of facts about Nigeria

US alarming misreading of facts about Nigeria


By John Amoda
LAOLU  AKANDE writing from New York in The Guardian Tuesday June 18, 2013, reports that “President Barack Obama is stepping up America’s military strategy against global terrorism and that Africa is on the list of his targets.

The U.S. had earlier this year established a drone base for the sake of dealing with Boko Haram terror threat in Nigeria, an ally of the U.S. in Africa.

According to a letter sent to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and President Pro-Tempore of the Senate at the weekend, Obama informed the U.S. Congress that he had ‘deployed combat equipped forces to enhance the counter- terrorism capabilities and support the counter- terrorism operations of our friends and allies, including special operations and other forces for sensitive operations in various locations around the world’.

The letter dated June 14 and signed by Obama himself, disclosed under the sub-heading ‘Military Operations in Niger in Support of U.S. Counter-Terrorism Objectives’ that: ‘As detailed in my report of February 22, 2013, and at my direction, on February 20, 2013 the last element of deployment of 40 additional U.S. military personnel entered Niger with the consent of the Government of Niger’.

Obama wrote that: ‘This deployment provides supports for intelligent collection and facilitates intelligence sharing with French forces conducting operations in Mali, and with other partners in the region’. The total number of U.S. military personnel deployment in Niger is approximate180. Observers say by adding more troops to the drone base in Niger, the U.S. is sharpening its strategy against Boko Haram upon whose head the State Department recently placed a $7million bounty some weeks ago.

The whole purpose of Obama’s security policy in Niger and in Nigeria is to enhance the counter- terrorism capabilities of these two U.S. allies to mount counter-terrorism operations in support of U.S. counter-terrorism objectives.

President Obama’s directive is in furtherance of the U.S. global counter-terrorism objectives. President Obama prefers ‘a light-footprint approach that relies on Special Forces, drones and local partners to combat terrorism, a sharp contrast to the regime change approach which was followed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

This change in strategy is evident in President Obama’s counter-insurgency effort in Africa. Bounty of $21million have been placed on the heads of five Al Qaeda/Boko Haram leaders, with the highest on the head of Abubakar Shekau, the Nigeria leader of the Boko Haram sect. The U.S. recognises the affiliation of the Boko Haram to Al Queda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and appreciates the insurgent capability of Shekau, hence the bounty.

“Boko Haram has fought alongside the regional Al Queda affiliate known as Al Queda in the Islamic Maghreb or AQIM according to residents of Mali. Hundreds of self-identified Boko Haram fighters last year learned to fire shoulder-mounted weapons at an AQIM-affiliated training camp in Timbuktu Mali, said a cook who fed them and neighbours who watched them.

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau spent much of last year in Mali, according to a senior Nigerian security adviser.

In Boko Haram: ‘You have a group that is becoming increasingly efficient’. Indeed the U.S. authorities rank the Boko Haram behind the Al Queda and the Talibans in terms of their threat capability. Nigeria is therefore critical in Obama’s new approach to fighting in global counter-terror war without ‘putting U.S. boots on the ground’.”

Counter-terrorism operations

For a Nigeria Government regarded as a principal US ally in West Africa, it is amazing that the US misreads or makes light the security condition of the country. The US counter-terrorism objective in Africa requires that it enhances the counter-terrorism capabilities of Nigeria in order to support the country’s counter-terrorism operations.

This US policy cannot be implemented without the US taking into account the course of terrorism addressed by US allies in general and by Nigeria in particular.

Addressing the course of terrorism is addressing the capabilities of the terrorists in their operations, and more specifically it is to address the terrorist operations confronted by the Nigerian Government.

When the US urges the Nigeria Government to conduct its counter-terrorism operations within the ambit of R2P (Responsibility To Protect non- combatants) is it mindful of the nature of the course of Boko Haram terrorist operations in Nigeria?

Secretary Kerry as reported in the May 26, 2013 of THISDAY, acknowledged that there is no denying the destabilizing ferocity of Boko Haram campaign of violence in Northern Nigeria. “They have killed wantonly and upset the normal governance of Nigeria in fundamental ways that are unacceptable,”  he said.

“And so we defend the right completely of the government to defend itself and to fight back against terrorists.” But human rights groups and some Northern leaders have complained about reprisal attacks by Nigerian security forces which further alienate local populations, making it harder to gather information about Boko Haram.

A Senior State Department official travelling with Secretary Kerry says Washington has been monitoring the conduct of Nigerian forces during a state of emergency declared earlier this month and concludes that human rights abuses are continuing. The official said: “It still remains a concern for us, peace and stability in the North and human rights issues”.

Nigeria’s President, Goodluck Jonathan, with whom Kerry met on the sidelines of AU summit has ordered an investigation into alleged misconduct during security operations in the village of Baga. And for that Secretary Kerry said Nigeria deserves credit. Kerry said US and Nigeria officials have spoken directly about the imperative of Nigeria troops adhering to the standards.