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What exactly can the US do in Chibok?

What exactly can the US do in Chibok?
May 09
12:24 2014

US President Barack Obama’s offer of help to Nigeria to rescue the abducted girls has generated considerable excitement in the land – but what are the chances of success?

Nigerians believe a lot in the American might, and President Goodluck Jonathan has been seeking help from the super power to help combat the Boko Haram carnage.

The US has already sent a team to Nigeria to team up with the US African Command in the search for the missing girls.

Retired General Carter Ham (pictured above), who led the African Command until last year, is hopeful that there’s a chance to help Nigeria in locating the 276 teenagers.


“I suspect they’ve been probably dispersed by now. That’ll be a difficult challenge,” Ham told NPR’s Steve Inskeep on Morning Edition. “But we have surveillance platforms, signals intelligence and other capabilities that would be helpful.”

But, first, the whereabouts of the girls must be established, he said.

If they are located, the US agencies such as the FBI could help the Nigerian government with “hostage rescue, negotiations and care of hostages, once [they’re] released. So there are a lot of capabilities the U.S. government broadly can bring to assist the Nigerians,” he said.


Ham said he doesn’t think anyone would be able to talk Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, into returning the girls.

The glimmer of hope is if the girls have been dispersed.

“That means that some girls are probably held by younger, less experienced, and perhaps less ideologically committed individuals,” Ham said. “And some of those might be affected by good hostage negotiation.”

Aside the US, Britain and France who have offered to assist Nigeria, Ham said Nigeria’s neighbours, such as Niger, Chad and Cameroon, must also be involved.


Some observers are less optimistic.

“It’s like a needle-in-the-haystack type of search we are talking about here,” Richard Downie of the Center for Strategic and International Studies told NPR. “A small group of personnel that the US is providing, that may help, but it’s unlikely to be a game changer.”

There are even fears in America that taking on Boko Haram may lead to repercussion for Western countries.

Ham said the operation could “cause Boko Haram to focus more on US interests”, but said in “a larger sense, I think if we can help Nigeria find these girls – and I think we can – then personally I’m glad to see us make that effort.”


The US military team sent to Nigeria is expected to advise the government on intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and logistics.

“In layman’s terms, they will show how the U.S. can help provide pictures of suspected sites through drones or satellites, intercept communications of the Boko Haram kidnappers and advise on possible rescue scenarios,” NPR’s Tom Bowman said.


“The Nigerian military [needs] helicopter support, though one official said a US ally, possibly the French could help,” he said. “Still, FBI hostage negotiators are also heading to Nigeria in case there’s a decision to work to resolve the kidnappings peacefully without a military operation.”



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