Ms. Alice Friend, the Defense Department’s principal director for African Affairs, Pentagon who gave the warning during a briefing with United States lawmakers about the issue yesterday, said that the reason for this outburst was the Nigerian’s government history of human rights violations and a 1997 law that bars the U.S. from providing training and other assistance to military, or units within them, that are accused of human rights violations.
The US official told the US Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee that Nigeria’s record had been a persistent and very troubling limitation on our assistance, adding that the Pentagon had struggled in the past to find Nigerian units it can coordinate with.
She also laid most of the blame on the incapacity of the Nigerian military and government to provide leadership to change the often brutal tactics carried out by security forces.
“In addition, that lack of guidance has led the army division in the northern part of the country charged with engaging Boko Haram forces to shown signs of real fear because they cannot match the group’s military muscle and might retreat. The Defense Department has begun working with Nigeria’s newly-minted Ranger Battalion on counter-terrorism operations inside the country” she said.
In a response, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee urged the Pentagon to review the ability of Nigeria’s military to rescue nearly 300 schoolgirls kidnapped by Islamist group Boko Haram, raising doubts that Abuja could act alone on U.S. intelligence.
Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) called initial efforts by Nigeria’s government to free the girls “indefensible” and “tragically slow,” during a hearing by the subcommittee on African Affairs, stressing that U.S. efforts to aid the search would be worthless if the Nigerians were incapable of carrying out a rescue.
“If we don’t know if they have the capacity to act on it, what good will that be? It is impossible to fathom we might have actionable intelligence and that we would not have the wherewithal to conduct a rescue,” Menendez added.
Menendez’s call comes as lawmakers have begun to raise pressure on the White House to take a more active role in the search for the missing girls. Critics say the Nigerian government botched their efforts to locate and free the girls when they were first taken last month.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Wednesday said the U.S. should consider sending in troops, including special forces, to locate and free the girls, even without the consent of the Nigerian government.
But the White House has rebuffed those calls, insisting that Nigeria is taking the lead in the search and that the U.S. team is only serving in an advisory role.