After years of Boko Haram terrorizing Africa, the Obama administration has finally come around to recognizing the militant Islamist terrorist group as a serious threat.
As almost 300 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped in April remain missing, the State Department acknowledged Thursday that Boko Haram is a “top priority” focus for the Obama administration.
Alice Friend, a top defense department official, worried Nigerian forces may not have the capability to combat Boko Haram alone. “In general, Nigeria has failed to mount an effective campaign against Boko Haram,” she said. Friend continued, worrying Boko Haram has adapted to become a serious threat to the United States’ national interests. “In the face of a new and more sophisticated threat than it has faced before, its security forces have been slow to adapt with new strategies, new doctrines and new tactics,” she said.
The State Department, however, is still insisting that the United States did not designate Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) because of requests from the Nigerian government. However, a recent report that the State Department ignored Nigeria’s request for defense assistance may counter the narrative that Nigeria ever made such a request. A recent report by ABC News and the Daily Beast provided evidence that the Obama administration failed to reply to requests by lobbying firm Patton Boggs, on behalf of the Nigerian government, for intelligence information and aid to help fight the militant Islamist terrorist group.
It wasn’t until current Secretary of State John Kerry’s tenure that the United States officially designated Boko Haram as an FTO.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) asked a State Department official in a public hearing Thursday if it was a mistake to wait so long to take Boko Haram seriously and appropriately categorize them as such. The official responded, “In retrospect, we might have done it earlier. I think the important thing is that we have done it and that we’ve offered a reward for the leadership of Boko Haram’s location.” The official continued, “I think, Senator [Rubio], that there is definitely a lesson here, and I think that we will be quicker to act to make designations based on our own assessments earlier on based on this.”
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has yet to directly address the matter. However, she seemingly blamed the Nigerian government for the lack of progress in combating Boko Haram. At a philanthropic group’s forum last week, she accused the Nigerian government of being “somewhat derelict in its responsibility” to protect its countrymen.