U.S. to expand cooperation with Nigeria’s military in fight against Boko Haram

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Military aidU.S. to expand cooperation with Nigeria’s military in fight against Boko Haram

Published 1 June 2015

Nigeria’s new president Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in as the country’s new president on Friday, and the Obama administration accompanied its congratulations to the new president with indications that the United States was prepared to expand military cooperation in the fight against Boko Haram. The growing concerns about Boko Haram notwithstanding, the United States reduced its military cooperation with Nigeria during the presidency of Goodluck Jonathan, who was defeated by Buhari in the March election. The Nigerian military under Jonathan was thoroughly corrupt, and proved itself incompetent in fighting Boko Haram. The United States was also growing increasingly frustrated with rampant human rights abuses by the Nigerian military. With Buhari, a former general with a reputation as a strict disciplinarian and an anti-corruption crusader, now in power, the United States is set to resume its military ties with Nigeria.

Nigeria’s new president Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in as the country’s new president on Friday, and the Obama administration accompanied its congratulations to the new president with indications that the United States was prepared to expand military cooperation in the fight against Boko Haram.

Secretary of State John Kerry, who led the American delegation at the inauguration, discussed cooperation against Boko Haram in a short meeting on Friday with Buhari.

“Something we can do quickly is to send advisers,” a senior State Department official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity under the department’s protocol for briefing reporters, told the New York Times. “It could be related to intelligence; it could be something very simple, related to things like logistics.”

“We certainly hope to be able to do more,” the official added.

Friday’s swearing-in of Buhari marked Nigeria’s first transition of power from one political party to another since the end of military rule in 1999.

In his speech, Buhari promised to persevere until “Boko Haram is completely subdued.”

Boko Haram launched its radical Islamist campaign in north-east Nigeria in 2009, but drew the world’s attention only in April 2014 when it abducted nearly 300 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok.

Boko Haram has since pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, although terrorism experts do not believe the Nigerian organization is an integral part of the Islamic State.

The growing concerns about Boko Haram notwithstanding, the United States reduced its military cooperation with Nigeria during the presidency of Goodluck Jonathan, who was defeated by Buhari in the March election.

The Nigerian military under Jonathan was thoroughly corrupt, and proved itself incompetent in fighting Boko Haram – that is, when its soldiers did stand up and fight, which they usually did not. The United States was also growing increasingly frustrated with rampant human rights abuses by the Nigerian military.

The United States did send drones to help search for the abducted girls, but Jonathan complained that the drones constituted an intervention in Nigeria’s internal affairs, and the brief moment of military cooperation between the United States and Nigeria came to an end.

Boko Haram, emboldened by its success against the hollowed-out and demoralized Nigerian army, began to attack targets in neighboring Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. For years, the Jonathan government refused to allow the armies of these neighbors to attack Boko Haram targets on Nigerian soil, insisting that the Nigerian military did not need any help in fighting Boko Haram.

In January, however, the leaders of the three countries, growing increasingly impatient with the brazen attacks by Boko Harms on targets inside their countries, informed Jonathan that they would attack Boko Haram targets inside Nigeria with or without the permission of Nigeria. Jonathan, trailing Buhari in the presidential campaign, agreed – and a combination of Chad air force’s attacks and ground attacks by the armies of Niger and Cameroon began to push Boko Harm back, liberating large swaths of Nigerian territory.

Jonathan tried to take credit for the victories by Nigeria’s neighbors over Boko Haram, but the Nigerian voters were not fooled, and kicked him out of office.

With Buhari, a former general with a reputation as a strict disciplinarian and an anti-corruption crusader, now in power, the United States is set to resume its military ties with Nigeria.

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