Boko Haram: US mulls sending special-OP troops to Nigeria

Boko Haram: US mulls sending special-OP troops to Nigeria

Friday, February 26, 2016 9:44 pm

US Special Operations troops

US Special Operations troops

An indication that President Muhammadu Buhari’s travels were not a waste came today from the United States, where the Pentagon is considering sending military advisers to Nigeria to train local troops to fight Boko Haram insurgents.

A US defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity today, said the US military made a string of recommendations after Nigeria’s leader asked for help determining “possible courses of action” in the fight against the Islamist militants.

One recommendation was to send a group of US advisers — most likely special operations troops — to Nigeria to train local forces. They would not be in a combat role.

Such a mission would be a resumption of an earlier Pentagon effort that Nigeria stopped in late 2014 amid US concerns of suspected Nigerian army abuses and its failure to protect civilians, as well as strained diplomatic ties stemming in part from the US blocking of Nigerian efforts to buy Cobra attack helicopters.

The official said ties had improved under the new Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari, who has vowed to do more than his predecessor Goodluck Jonathan to fight Boko Haram.

The New York Times first reported the potential deployment Friday, saying the Pentagon was poised to send “dozens” of special operations advisers to Maiduguri, capital of northeast Borno state.

But the defense official downplayed the speed of any deployment, and said the operation was still being discussed.

“I don’t think anyone is ready to approve anything today,” the official said. “Recommendations were made, these are still being assessed.”

The US embassy in Nigeria said in 2014 that it regretted the end of the training program, which was offered following Boko Haram’s abduction of 276 schoolgirls in northeast Nigeria.

A number of foreign powers sent surveillance and intelligence specialists to Nigeria to help the military search for the 219 teenagers who are still being held.

US advisers and special operations troops are playing a growing role in the global fight against Islamist extremists, including in Iraq, Syria and Libya.

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