U.S. Gives Niger 2 Surveillance Planes to Combat Boko Haram

AP Photo
AP Photo

The United States reportedly gave Niger two military surveillance aircrafts as attacks by suspected Boko Haram jihadists continued along its southeast border with Nigeria.

On Wednesday, Niger’s Defense Minister Mahamadou Karidjo “took possession of two Cessna C-208 planes equipped with intelligence and reconnaissance systems, as well as around 30 military vehicles and ambulances,” reports Nigeria’s Vanguard daily newspaper. “A U.S. official said the aid was worth around 32 million euros [about $35.5 million].”

The planes “will enable Niger’s armed forces to identify local threats and better secure the border,” U.S. Ambassador Eunice Reddick reportedly said.

“It’s not tanks we need but intelligence to fight them,” noted Karidjo.

Two Niger soldiers were killed and several wounded Wednesday in a foiled suicide attack by suspected Boko Haram jihadists, said Defense Minister Karidjo.

“Wednesday’s attack took place in the Diffa region, said private radio station Anfani, the scene of several such incidents since February, including one in June in which 38 people were killed,” notes Vanguard.

Niger is being threatened by jihadists fighters along its northern borders with Mali and Libya and by Boko Haram extremists along its southeast border with Nigeria.

“In October it struck a military cooperation deal with the United States that provides for US training to Niger troops as part of a joint fight against terrorism,” Vanguard points out. “Washington has a military base in Niger used by its drones to supply intelligence to French troops who launched an anti-Islamist operation in Mali in January 2013.”

Niger’s primary source of foreign income is uranium. The African country has joined a regional military coalition that includes Cameroon, Chad, and Nigeria to fight the Nigeria-based Boko Haram.

Boko Haram, infamous for taking more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls hostage in April 2014, has expanded from its base in Nigeria to terrorize other countries in the region.

The terrorist group has threatened American and European allies in West Africa. Earlier this year, its leader, Abubakar Shekau, pledged Boko Haram’s loyalty to the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL).

The Obama administration is quietly trying to build a wall against Boko Haram in Niger: American Special Operations Forces in Niger “do not go into combat, or even wear uniforms. They are quietly trying to help Niger build a wall against Boko Haram’s incursions and its recruitment of Diffa’s youth.”

Diffa sits in the country’s southeast region, along the international boundary that separates it from neighboring Nigeria.

The United States has deployed about 1,000 U.S. Special Operations Forces across Africa to “quietly” join local forces in nations such as Niger, Nigeria, and Chad to counter combat jihadists. “In Chad, Nigeria, Niger and elsewhere, they are executing Obama’s relatively low-risk strategy of countering Islamic extremists by finding local partners willing to fight rather than deploying combat troops by the thousands,” notes Reuters.

President Obama announced the new approach in May 2014, which Reuters acknowledged is no panacea for America in its worldwide war against Islamic terrorists. “The indirect strategy appears to be faltering in the Middle East, where the United States has found few reliable allies on the battlefield in Syria,” points out Reuters. “In Iraq, U.S.-trained and-equipped forces evaporated last year in the face of Islamic State’s offensive.”

Nevertheless, it went on to report that there are indications of progress against Boko Haram in Niger. That being said, success is expected to be slow and take years, Reuters learned from U.S., European, and African officials. “For the region, this is going to be a struggle that’s going to be with them for a long time, not just in Niger, but elsewhere,” Army Col. Bob Wilson, commander of U.S. Special Operations Forces in North and West Africa, told Reuters.

Niger, a predominantly Muslim country, is worth helping, U.S. officials declared.

“Relatively stable, but facing national and local elections in 2016, it is threatened by Boko Haram in Nigeria to the south, chaos in Libya to the north and an al Qaeda affiliate that operates in neighboring Algeria and Mali,” explained Reuters.

“It’s a totally different approach to the problem set,” an American team sergeant told Reuters on condition of anonymity because military ground rules prohibit Special Operations soldiers from being identified by name.


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