The kidnapping of nearly 300 girls in Nigeria, last month, has willed the United States to send supportive troops to aid their safe return, but it seems an American presence may not help. The Islamic terrorist group that seized the girls, Boko Haram, is the most sophisticated insurgency in not only Nigeria, but in neighboring Cameroon, Niger, Benin and Chad.
After word of the mass kidnapping came to the international media, many in the United States requested action. Some groups called on the American government to support what they saw as a humanitarian crisis while others asked for fear of an al-Qaeda resurgence.
President Obama heeded the calls of the American people and sent 30 advisers from the Pentagon, FBI and the State Department. Amid growing frustrations from the Nigerian people, the United States has since sent 80 troops into Chad, comprised of Air Force members, maintenance specialists and officers guarding unarmed Predator drones.
Despite the humanist will to help in the girl’s return, it is unlikely the United States will be able to make a significant difference. A number of factors play into this harsh reality, but none as much as the Nigerian government.
In northeast Nigeria, Boko Haram’s stronghold, civilians have been forced to pick up arms and defend themselves against the group as the state military never acts fast enough. Over 500 people have died at the hands of Boko Haram in the past two months alone.
Meanwhile, the $5.8 billion Nigerian security budget is failing because “corruption prevents [basic] supplies [like] bullets and transport vehicles from reaching the front lines…against Boko Haram,” said Sarah Sewall, American Under Secretary of State for civilian security, democracy and human rights.
A shred of light came through Monday as Nigeria’s Chief of Defense Staff claimed the government knew the whereabouts of the abducted girls. Though he called it “good news” for the families of those missing, he added the government would not use force to rescue them, fearing it would be too dangerous.
Taking into account Sewall’s perception of corruption in the Nigerian government and the high rates of desertion in its military, it would seem privy of the nation to allow more sophisticated troops on the ground. However, the chances of American boots touching Nigerian land are extremely low.
President Obama, amid the bitter end of the war in Afghanistan, is reluctant to make any long-term military commitments. Nevertheless, even if he were willing, Nigerian officials have historically refused foreign troops on native land.
Putting aside the Nigerian resistance, one look at the United States’ counterterrorism history makes the current situation with Boko Haram sobering. After a decade of fighting, and billions of dollars spent in rebuilding the security in Iraq, the most powerful insurgency in the region has once again gained traction.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban continues to grow strongholds and support systems throughout the countryside. In October 2011, the United States sent 100 troops to Uganda in an attempt to capture the Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony, whose militia has been involved in systematic rape, mutilation and murder.
This march, President Obama doubled the number looking for Kony, who moves nearly free between the lawless parts of the Central African Republic, Uganda, South Sudan and Congo. Despite the multiplied effort, Kony’s estimated 300 members remain a constant threat of terror in the region.
It seems the only way for American aid to truly bring an end to this horror is to have the United States’ Special Forces on the ground. However, the unwillingness from Nigeria may hinder any chance the United States’ troops have of helping the kidnapped girls.
Opinion by Erin P. Friar