Defense Secretary Ashton Carter was addressing members of the U.S. Army stationed in Grafenwoehr, Germany, today when he got a terrorism question from a soldier.
“Sir, I’d like to know, what is the Department of Defense plan of action when it comes to the increasing threat posed by Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram in West Africa?” an Army specialist asked.
“Yeah. Both Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab are serious terrorist organizations,” Carter replied. “They are — are — terrorize not only their own countries, but the continent of Africa. And this is one of these things that if you leave it unchecked, it will go worldwide, including to the United States. So it’s a real concern to us.”
Shabaab has been recruiting in the United States for years, including among the Somali community. A former Beltway cabbie, Liban Haji Mohamed, was placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list in January for recruiting for Shabaab in Northern Virginia. A new Shabaab video released this month shows white fighters in the Somali terror group.
“Some of them, as we see elsewhere around the world, are renaming themselves, taking — taking the ISIS brand or some of the ISIS playbook and trying to modernize themselves. Because both those groups have been around for a while,” Carter continued.
Boko Haram formally pledged allegiance to ISIS in March.
“But they’re cruel. They’ll stop at nothing. And our — and we are in the fight against them. Our principal way of doing that is to help others who are either the African nations, which we — where we try to help train and equip and so forth their militaries better to deal with that,” Carter said. “And in some cases, we’re helping allies — the French, for example, on the African continent, to combat these groups.”
“But you know, make no mistake, they’re — they’re as dangerous as terrorists in the Middle East. They just happen to be in Africa, but what they do to people and what they’re prepared to do to people, what their aspirations are, are not really very different.”
Nigeria has asked for greater help fighting Boko Haram. The U.S. has offered some aid but has been critical of what it says are human rights violations committed by Nigerian forces hunting down Boko Haram members.