May 29, 2015—”We certainly hope to be able to do more,” an anonymous State Department official told The New York Times today in reference to US intervention in Nigeria, one of the top oil suppliers for the US.
Muhammadu Buhari, the newNigerian president, has just been inaugurated, and Secretary of State John Kerry was on hand for the ceremony. Kerry briefly met with Buhari, who previously ruled Nigeria as a coup-installed military dictator from the end of 1983 to August 1985, to let him know more US military support would be on the way soon.
Since 2009, the US has sent over $1.3 billion to Nigeria’s government.
The reason? Ostensibly it’s to fight Boko Haram, the terrorist group mostly known for kidnapping over 200 girls last year. Recently, the group renamed itself Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP) in an effort to gain support from backers of the Islamic State in Libya, Syria, and Iraq. This month, ISWAP members were killed at an Islamic State training ground in Mosul, Iraq by an unsympathetic local group.
While Boko Haram or ISWAP has faced repeated losses at the hands of Nigeria and regional forces, they are still a local threat. Based near the Cameroon border, they’re active in the northern parts of Nigeria. Last year they carried out 26 suicide attacks, but 2015’s total is already above that — of the 27 suicide bombers this year, 75 percent of them have been women, some as young as seven years old according to Unicef, the United Nations children agency.
Nearly 16,000 people have been killed since the Boko Haram insurgency emerged six years ago. Besides the hundreds kidnapped, some 1.5 million Nigerians are refugees in their own country.
Understanding where Boko Haram came from hasn’t been much a part of the media’s coverage. Founded in 2002, it promoted ideas like the earth was flat and banned modern weapons not mentioned in the Qu’ran. Then in 2009 the Nigerian military bombed their mosque, assassinated their founder, and things just got a whole lot worse from there.
But Boko Haram, or even in its masquerading as the West African Province of the Islamic State, is no threat to the US. A Congressional report in late 2011 inclined otherwise, but even its signature author, Congressman Patrick Meehan (R-PA) at the time admitted, “While I recognize there is little evidence at this moment to suggest Boko Haram is planning attacks against the homeland, lack of evidence does not mean it cannot happen.”
The corruption in Nigeria under its previous leader kept the US at bay, but now a “closer relationship” is desired by Buhari. The US military would train the Nigerians in logistics, intelligence, and military justice under the condition that the Nigerians be vetted for prior human rights violations.
That could be quite the task since so many officers in the Nigerian military are said to have squandered funds meant for their troops’ pay and arms. This week there were secret trials for hundreds of soldiers accused of cowardice. The soldiers claim they had to run from the enemy because they lacked bullets.
Meanwhile, the citizens of Nigeria see the economy and government corruption as top priorities. But as long as the State Department and major corporations have their own interests in mind, the returning once-military dictator Muhammadu Buhari will have a lot to balance if he’s going to be president for everybody.
Should the US military intervene more or less in Nigeria? Share your thoughts in the comments.
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