On the heels of President Obama’s meeting with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, the U.S. may be looking to help train Nigerian law enforcement officials to fight Boko Haram, Islamic State and other extremist organizations in the region, analysts say.
Under a Department of Justice international criminal investigative training assistance program, the department could train Nigerian officers on international standards for human rights and dignity and combating transnational crime. The Department of Justice does not currently have a training program in Nigeria, and last provided training to Nigerian officials to bolster election security, according to a DOJ fact sheet.
The U.S. has committed $5 million to fight against Boko Haram since Mr. Buhari came into power in March, but has refused to sell weapons to the country based on its military’s checkered human rights record.
Five months ago, Boko Haram militants pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, a radical extremist group that has been aggressively trying to enlist new allies beyond its base in Iraq and Syria. Boko Haram is probably best known for last year’s kidnapping of 276 Nigerian schoolgirls who are still missing.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Mr. Buhari Tuesday said a multinational African force would be in place within 10 days to take the fight to Boko Haram, predicting the terror group would be defeated by the end of 2016 as military force increases.
But he also acknowledged that Nigerian authorities lack intelligence about the location of the girls — still missing after the mass kidnapping from the northern town of Chibok in April 2014.
Analysts say Mr. Buhari’s defeat of incumbent President Jonathan Goodluck in widely praised democratic elections this spring has opened the path for greater U.S. cooperation with the government in Abuja.
“Last year, Jonathan ended cooperation with the U.S. military,” said Foundation for Defense of Democracies Senior Fellow Bill Roggio. “So I think you’ll see police training, military training and probably shared military intelligence.”
Improved diplomatic relations between the United States and Nigeria will smooth the path toward that goal, Mr. Roggio said.
Following Boko Haram’s pledge of support to the Islamic State this year, militants have begun ramping up attacks on targets inside Nigeria and in surrounding countries. Last week, the group brutally murdered 23 people at a Cameroon village, and in June militants claimed responsibility for two suicide bombings in Chad that killed 11 people, including five police officers.
Foreign policy analysts say the training of law enforcement officials by the Department of Justice would go hand in hand with any international effort to flush out the terrorist from the region.
As Nigeria’s government makes a concerted effort to reclaim authority in areas overrun by Boko Haram militants, it will need to have a police force that can protect the people and convince them that they will not “be beheaded by insurgents if they cooperate with the government,” said Joshua Meservey, a specialist on Africa and the Middle East at The Heritage Foundation.
President Obama told reporters Monday that Mr. Buhari, a former general and onetime coup leader elected in March, has “a very clear agenda in defeating Boko Haram extremists of all sorts inside his country,” although Mr. Obama didn’t reveal the specifics of Mr. Buhari’s plan.
After the presidential visit, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the United States could offer intelligence to help the Nigerian efforts as well as support for communities hurt by the group.
There have been 21 Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria in 2015. Out of those 21 attacks, 15 were confirmed as Boko Haram attacks and six were suspected attacks, according to data compiled by The Washington Times. That data show that, including suspected attacks, Boko Haram has killed more than 2,500 people in 2015 alone.
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