The United States will provide $35 million in military and defense support services to France as part of America’s investment in the war against Islamist terrorist group, Boko Haram. The American support, contained in a press statement issued by the White House late on Wednesday, is to provide assistance to France which has been actively supporting Nigeria’s French speaking neighbors—Niger and Chad—in their fight against Boko Haram insurgents as well as Mali, which is battling Islamist extremism.
The three French-speaking have been in the forefront of the war against the dreaded Islamist terrorist group.
Curiously, America’s new support did not mention Nigeria, the country worst hit by Boko Haram’s terrorist assaults. The conspicuous omission of Nigeria has raised questions in diplomatic circles whether the apparent snub represented a continuing fallout from strained relations between the Goodluck Jonathan administration and President Barack Obama over the former’s original questionable response to the Boko Haram menace.
Speaking off the record yesterday, a US government official simply reaffirmed that the $35 million funding was in support of French operations, which are not taking place in Nigeria.
Some diplomats expect that, once President-elect Muhammadu Buhari assumes office on May 29, the White House will announce some new initiatives to support the overall fight against terror groups in Nigeria.
Last week, at Time magazine’s 100 influential people gala in New York City, top US government officials, including Samantha Powers, promised that the US would do more to support the search for the Chibok girls and the fight against Boko Haram in Nigeria.
Titled “Delegation of Authority Under Section 506(a)(1) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961,” the White House statement noted that President Obama had authorized Secretary of State John Kerry to facilitate the US assistance to Mali, Niger and Chad, significantly omitting Nigeria, where Islamist groups had captured significant territories and killed thousands of people in suicide attacks and military operations.
In the White House statement, Mr. Obama declared, “I hereby delegate to the Secretary of State the authority under section 506(a)(1) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to direct the drawdown of up to $35 million in defense services of the Department of Defense to provide assistance to France in its efforts to secure Mali, Niger, and Chad from terrorists and violent extremists, and to make the determinations required under such section to direct such a drawdown.”
US-Nigeria relationship on Boko Haram has been rocky, leading the Nigerian Ambassador to the US to openly state that the American government had not given Nigeria the needed support especially in the area of weapons.
Indeed, the US government refused to sell US-made Cobra fighter-helicopters to the Nigerian government. Newly available information revealed that Nigeria was to purchase the helicopters from Israel, but the deal required US approval, which Washington declined to give.
Under the terms of US-Israeli ties, the Israeli government cannot transfer the military helicopters to a third country unless the US government okayed the transaction.
A US military training of a unit of the Nigerian military was also abruptly ended late last year as the Americans said Nigeria asked for the training to stop.
Earlier in the week, the US State Department issued a statement condemning Boko Haram’s killing of 48 security officials from Niger Republic. The statement came less than 48 hours after that State Department condemned a terror attack that took place on the Karamga Island in Lake Chad. The US offered “condolences to the Government and people of Niger and to the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives and who are missing.”
The statement also condemned “the violent actions of Boko Haram and its continued disregard for human life. Boko Haram has perpetrated countless unprovoked attacks on men, women, and children in their homes, schools, places of worship, and businesses. Their brutality and barbarism know no bounds.”
The United States also restated its commitment “to supporting the efforts of the multi-national Joint Task Force (MNJTF) to help the countries of the region increase their capabilities to degrade and destroy Boko Haram. We commend efforts by the African Union and Lake Chad Basin Commission countries and Benin to stand up the MNJTF.”