The State Department today deflected questions about Nigeria’s incapacity to handle the Boko Haram threat by stressing the U.S. is still providing “multifaceted” support to a strictly “Nigerian-led effort.”
The U.S. sent crews to help locate more than 200 high school girls after their infamous kidnapping from a Chibok school in April. Terrorists say the girls have been sold off by this point.
Last week, Boko Haram returned to Chibok and took control of the town in Borno state. Villagers who fled reported that many had been killed.
State Department press office director Jeff Rathke told reporters today that Washington is “aware” of the reports.
“We condemn Boko Haram’s attacks on Chibok, a community that has suffered far too much already and we extend our condolences to the families of the victims,” Rathke said.
“Now, with respect to the fight against Boko Haram, the United States remains committed to helping the government of Nigeria address the threat that Boko Haram poses and to find and free those who have been abducted in Chibok and elsewhere,” he added. “So we continue to support Nigerian efforts to — to bring them — bring them home and we are providing assistance both through humanitarian programs, through sharing of intelligence, and advising on strategic communications and — and other issues.”
“We also continue to encourage Nigerian authorities to adopt a comprehensive approach to violent extremists.”
The U.S. government has criticized Nigeria for not respecting human rights when it’s gone after Boko Haram.
Asked “where does this thing stand” given the continued gains by the al-Qaeda affiliate, Rathke said the support for the Nigerian government covers “a range of aspects, including humanitarian programs including sharing of certain intelligence information.”
“We have also provided and approved sales of military equipment to the armed forces after careful scrutiny. So, we have a multifaceted approach to this Nigerian-led effort. And we — our hearts certainly go out to the — to the families of the victims and to the girls themselves, and all of those who have been abducted,” he said.
Last week, Nigerian Ambassador to the U.S. Ade Adefuye complained that the U.S. has been refusing to sell needed arms to the country.
Adefuye said that the administration “has up till today refused to grant Nigeria’s request to purchase lethal equipment that would have brought down the terrorists within a short time on the basis of the allegations that Nigeria’s defence forces have been violating human rights of Boko Haram suspects when captured or arrested.”
The Obama administration has long criticized the Nigerian government forces in the same breath as the al-Qaeda-allied terrorists, including Assistant Secretary of State Linda Thomas-Greenfield telling a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee a year ago that the U.S. government is “concerned by reports that some Nigerian security forces have committed gross human rights violations in response to Boko Haram.” At the same hearing, Nigerian activists testified that Boko Haram is beheading Christians with chainsaws.
Rathke said the U.S. commitment includes approximately $19 million in fiscal year 2014 for “vulnerable and conflicted — conflict-affected households in Nigeria.”
“Some of that goes through USAID, some of it through other — through other channels. But, you know, we have been providing, in addition to that, about $54 million in humanitarian assistance to neighboring countries, where that are significant refugee populations,” he said. “So this is something to which we remain committed, and we’ll continue that support.”
When pressed on why the U.S. has never been able to locate the large group of kidnapped schoolgirls, Rathke called it “an enormous challenge.”
“And we continue to support the Nigerian-led efforts, but it’s our view this has to be a Nigerian-led effort,” he said. “So we’ll continue to provide the support that I outlined because we consider — consider this an important opportunity to help Nigeria achieve success. But it’s a Nigerian-led operation.”
“…We have a longstanding and important relationship with Nigeria and we value that highly. We are standing with the government and the people of Nigeria in the face of the lethal and inhumane attacks that Boko Haram has unleashed. And we’re working closely with the Nigerian Government and with the governments of neighboring states to counter these threats… We’ve begun training a new army battalion. We’ve held numerous high-level discussions with Nigerian authorities on ways to meet the Boko Haram threat. So I think, you know, that record is clear.”