A top United States Defense Department official has said Nigeria’s response to the threat of Boko Haram emboldened the violent group.
She, however, assured that her country was committed to the release of more than 200 seized from Government Secondary School, Chibok, a month ago.
“In general, Nigeria has failed to mount an effective campaign against Boko Haram,” said Alice Friend, the Pentagon’s principal Director for African Affairs, in testimony provided to the Senate’s Africa subcommittee ahead of a hearing on Thursday.
“The Department has been deeply concerned for some time by how much the Government of Nigeria has struggled to keep pace with Boko Haram’s growing capabilities,” she said.
She added that, “more troubling” was that atrocities have been perpetrated by some security forces during operations against the group, which means U.S. human rights law would bar providing assistance to them.
She disclosed that 6 U.S. Department of Defense personnel with medical, intelligence, counter-terrorism and communications expertise have been assigned exclusively to the mission of advising Nigerian efforts to recover the girls safely.
“Our intent is to support Nigerian-led efforts to recover the girls and help catalyze greater efforts to secure the Nigerian population from the menace of Boko Haram,” Friend said.
The official also said the Pentagon and Department of State were developing a “regional response” to Boko Haram to improve border security along Nigeria’s frontiers with Chad, Niger and Cameroon.
The intention was to detect and respond to movement of Boko Haram members between Nigeria and its neighbours, she added.
On his part, Robert Jackson, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, said in his prepared testimony that Washington has been urging Nigeria to reform its approach to Boko Haram.
“When soldiers destroy towns, kill civilians and detain innocent people with impunity, mistrust takes root,” he said.