U.S. to send troops to Nigeria to help fight Boko Haram

Published 6 March 2016

Hundreds of U.S. military advisers would soon be on their way to the front lines of the battle raging in north-east Nigeria and neighboring countries against the Islamist Nigerian insurgency Boko Haram.

The New York Times reports that the plan to send U.S. military personnel to the area was as part of a recent confidential assessment by the top U.S. Special Operations commander for Africa, Brig. Gen. Donald C. Bolduc.

The plan has yet to be approved, but informed sources say that it calls for American troops to serve solely in noncombat advisory roles, military officials said. 

“Rather than entangle U.S. combat forces on the ground, help build the capacity of regional forces to tackle their countries’ security challenges,” Jennifer G. Cooke, Africa director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, told the Times. “Training and advising and perhaps imparting the lessons we learned the hard way is a good thing.”

Nigeria’s neighbor Cameroon is already host to hundreds of U.S. troops, where they have employed drones to gather information about Boko Haram’s militants and provide it to the Nigerian military. General Bolduc’s recommendations include sending “small dozens” of Special Forces to Maiduguri, a city in northeast Nigeria regarded as the birthplace of Boko Haram attacks.

In January 2015, four of Nigeria’s neighbor informed Nigeria that they would ignore Nigeria’s objections and send their own troops to fight Boko Haram. The Nigerian military, hollowed out by corruption, could not deal effectively with the Islamist militants, who began to attack targets in Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Burkina Faso. The effectiveness of the militaries of Nigeria’s neighbor – especially the U.S.-trained and supplied Chadian air force – pushed Boko Haram back, and the militants lost large swaths of territory previously under their control.

When President Muhammadu Buhari came to power in Nigeria last year, replacing the hapless Goodluck Jonathan, he shook up the military, installed new leadership, and gave that leadership three months to do away with Boko Haram – a goal yet to be reached.

Although Boko Haram has been weakened and the territory under its control diminished, it can still launch deadly attacks and suicide bombing in towns and cities across Nigeria.