During the second day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie criticized Hillary Clinton for “fighting” to keep Boko Haram off the U.S. terrorist watch list during her time as Secretary of State.
“In Nigeria, Hillary Clinton amazingly fought for two years to keep an Al-Qaeda affiliate off the terrorist watch list,” the governor said.
“What happened because of this reckless action by the candidate who is the self-proclaimed champion of women around the world? These terrorists abducted hundreds of innocent young girls two years ago.”
SaharaReporters found that Mrs. Clinton and the State Department did not classify Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) during her tenure as Secretary of State, though the decision to not designate the group was informed by experts and after consultation with the Nigerian authorities.
President Goodluck Jonathan and his administration did not want Boko Haram designated as an FTO according to reports when Mrs. Clinton was the Secretary of State. Mr. Jonathan and his advisers, early on, were concerned that designating Boko Haram as a terrorist group would elevate the profile of the organization.
According to Matthew Page, International Affairs Fellow at the Council for Foreign Relations and Nigeria expert, “The Nigerian government and top [international] experts on Nigeria warned in 2012 that designating Boko Haram as an FTO would raise the group’s international profile and redirect its attacks towards U.S. targets.”
He added that Secretary of State John Kerry formally designated the group as an FTO in 2013 only after Boko Haram evolved into a greater threat.
Many international experts said that designating Boko Haram as an FTO would have done little to prevent their attacks throughout Nigeria.
“FTO designation is an important tool, but not the only tool, in the fight against terrorism. It is especially useful against terrorists that fundraise or hide money in the United States,” Mr. Page said to SaharaReporters.
He added that “Boko Haram, however, did not have bank accounts or financial ties to the United States.”
Mr. Christie’s comments during the Republication convention speaks to concerns among American conservatives that Mrs. Clinton is ill-equipped to protect the US against terrorist threats. Discussion of her stance towards Boko Haram falls within the context that Mrs. Clinton had a weak response to the Benghazi attack in Libya which resulted in Americans, including a sitting US ambassador, being killed and her refusal to classify these threats as “Islamist.”
Mr. Christie was long considered a powerful force in the Republican Party and a likely choice to be Donald Trump’s vice presidential pick. Mr. Christie was the first major establishment Republican to endorse Mr. Trump for President.