After a published plea from Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan for U.S. combat troops in the fight against Boko Haram fighters, the U.S. African Command appears ready to sweep aside its hesitation and jump in with both feet.
The previous position held that advanced weapons could not be provided as there were troubling allegations of human rights violations by Nigeria’s security forces. There also appeared to be a lack of political will to defeat Boko Haram, a senior U.S. official told the BBC.
Now, however, the Africa Command is “ready to assist in whatever way (Nigeria) sees as being practical,” Lt-Gen Steven A. Hummer, Deputy to the Commander of Military Operations, was quoted to say.
Counterterrorism exercises, under the name “Operation Flintlock” are currently underway in Chad with drills in Niger, Cameroon and Tunisia. The war games are intended to help African militaries bolster their counterterrorism skills.
However the coordinated actions by Niger and Chad have elicited warnings from Boko Haram leaders. They threatened to send suicide bombers if troops were deployed.
“If you insist on continuing the aggression and the coalition with the government of Chad, then we give you glad tidings that the land of Niger is easier than the land of Nigeria and moving the war to the depth of your cities will be the first reaction toward any aggression that occurs after this statement,” according to a transcript provided by the SITE Intelligence Group.
A multinational force to fight Boko Haram is expected to be formally launched in coming weeks. Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Benin initially pledged to help Nigeria. This week, Burundi and Central African Republic also agreed to contribute troops to fight the militant group.
Also this week, leaders in Central Africa said that 10 member states had agreed to contribute most of the $100 million needed to combat Boko Haram. They did not state how much had been raised nor how much is remaining despite calling for the creation of an emergency fund to bridge the difference, according to reporters with the Associated Press.
Meanwhile, the death toll from a suicide bomber’s attack on a bus station in the northeast city of Damaturu now stands at 13 with 26 injured. The attacker was reported to be a female.