Tuesday, February 3, 2015 9:47 pm
Boko Haram’s insurgency in Nigeria poses a potential “regional crisis” but Chad and other neighboring countries are starting to put pressure on the Islamist rebels, the head of US military intelligence said Tuesday.
Lieutenant General Vincent Stewart, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told lawmakers Nigeria’s campaign against Boko Haram was falling short but welcomed the role of Chad, Niger and Cameroon in confronting the militants.
“It’s a violent, brutal movement but it’s, at this point, isolated in the northeast part of Nigeria and we are starting to get some help from neighboring countries to counter that,” Stewart told the House Armed Services Committee.
It was “good news” that “Chad and Cameroon and Niger and other countries around the region are starting to take on Boko Haram,” said Stewart, who recently took the helm at the DIA.
The general said there was no imminent risk that Boko Haram — which has been gaining ground in the northeast — could seize control of Nigeria’s oil fields, which were located in the country’s south.
However, he said Nigeria’s handling of the fight against Boko Haram was “troubling,” saying there was a “lack of leadership” and a “lack of commitment to developing the military” and equipping the country’s troops.
In his written testimony to the committee, Stewart said Nigeria has “failed to improve” its military efforts and has yet to pursue a broader counter-insurgency campaign involving civilian aspects of government.
“If continued along the same trajectory, BH’s (Boko Haram’s) successes could grow into significant regional crisis with implications outside of northwest Africa,” he wrote.
His comments came as Chad deployed ground troops into Nigeria for the first time on Tuesday to battle Boko Haram, with Chadian aircraft striking the militants.
The action came after the African Union last week approved a 7,500-strong force to go after Boko Haram amid mounting concerns about regional security.
Nigeria’s military played down Chad’s role, saying Nigerian forces were leading the offensive against Boko Haram in the northeast.
US officials have privately complained that Nigeria has been reluctant to take up Washington’s offers of assistance but Stewart said the outcome of upcoming elections on February 14 would possibly clear the way for more cooperation.
The polls “will give us a better sense of who we have to work with and what we can do to help,” he added.