The abduction of more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls by the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram has attracted worldwide attention. To assist the Nigerian government, which has received criticism for its response to the kidnapping, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has detached a team of 16 military personnel to the country.
We are in the assessment phase right now. This will allow us to determine what assistance is needed and what assistance we can provide the Nigerian military,”
The team arrived in Nigeria on May 8, in response to President Barack Obama’s offer of help to Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan’s request for assistance. The team has already begun its coordination efforts. “We are in the assessment phase right now. This will allow us to determine what assistance is needed and what assistance we can provide the Nigerian military,” Davis said. “No other troops have deployed or are involved in operations against Boko Haram.”
The team is part of a larger State Department-led interagency and assessment cell. The team’s mission is to identify assistance and resources needed by the Nigerian government. This efforts consists mainly of intelligence efforts, since the exact location of the more than 200 schoolgirls is still unknown. In a State Department briefing on May 13, spokeswoman Jen Psaki described what the cell’s efforts have consisted of. “We’ve provided commercial satellite imagery and are flying manned intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft over Nigeria with the government’s permission. We’re also working closely with international partners on the ground broadly about the entire effort, including with the United Kingdom and France.” The girls were abducted on the night of April 14 from their boarding school in the town of Chibok, Nigeria, by the al Qaeda-affiliated Boko Haram.
“We’ve provided commercial satellite imagery and are flying manned intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft over Nigeria with the government’s permission.“
Besides AFRICOM military service members, the cell is composed of personnel from the FBI and the intelligence community. “The purpose of the AFRICOM team is to coordinate with the Nigerian military and assess their needs and determine what assistance we can provide them to help in their search,” said Col. Tom Davis, AFRICOM’s director of Public Affairs, in an AFRICOM statement. “The team consists of experts in communications, logistics, and intelligence.” Most of the AFRICOM military personnel involved are part of the U.S. Diplomatic Mission to Nigeria’s Office of Security Cooperation, which works to enhance the relationship between the militaries of Nigeria and the United States. That office is one of the largest in Africa. “We have a total of 50 or 60 military personnel assigned to the embassy there as part of the country team, said Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, during a May 12, press briefing. Sixteen of those are now assigned exclusively to the search for the girls.