- The Washington Times
Monday, April 30, 2018

President Trump has repeatedly said he doesn’t want the U.S. to police the world, but it’s proving to be a tough job to quit.

Mr. Trump again answered the 911 call when he met Monday with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and pledged continued U.S. support for the county’s fight against Islamic State-affiliated Boko Haram.

“We more and more are not wanting to be the policemen of the world. And we’re spending tremendous amounts of money for decades on policing the world and that shouldn’t be our priority,” Mr. Trump said when The Washington Times asked about the U.S. role in Nigeria at a Rose Garden press conference with Mr. Buhari.

Mr. Trump added, “We want to police ourselves, and we want to rebuild our country.”

The same pledge was a staple of Mr. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

He followed through as president by prodding NATO members to pick up more of the tab for defending Europe. He also pressed leaders of Germany, France and the European Union to take more responsibility for conflicts on their doorstep in the Middle East.

But the U.S. remains embroiled in military action around the globe.

Mr. Buhari has said Mr. Trump did more than President Obama did to assist Nigeria in the fight against Boko Haram, a militant group.

Mr. Buhari described the U.S. troops in Nigeria as “training teams,” similar to the Pentagon’s description of the advise-and-assist missions.

“I think this is one of the best things the United States could do for us to stabilize the country,” he said.

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis has said the U.S. military has more than 1,000 troops in Nigeria, Niger and Chad.

The low-key military presence in Nigeria came under scrutiny last year when four U.S. soldiers were killed in an ambush in Tongo Tongo, Niger, while returning from a mission with Nigerian troops.

To help Nigeria fend for itself, Mr. Trump is pushing to change a U.S. law the Obama administration used to block the sales of military helicopters to the West African country.

“We’re getting it approved,” Mr. Trump said, saying a couple Chinook helicopters would be delivered “very soon.”

“We love helicopters. He likes them more than I do,” Mr. Trump said, gesturing to Mr. Buhari. “He likes buying helicopters.”

The administration last year approved the sale of 12 A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft to the Nigerian Air Force.

Meanwhile, the two leaders said they didn’t discuss reports in January that Mr. Trump referred to African countries as “s–holes” from which the U.S. did need accept more immigrants.

Mr. Buhari said he didn’t know if the report was true. “So the best thing for me is to keep quiet,” he said at the press conference.

“You do have some countries that are in very bad shape and very tough places to live in,” said Mr. Trump. “But we didn’t discuss it because the president knows me, and he knows where I’m coming from. And I appreciate that.”

Mr. Trump did raise the issue of persecution of Christians in Nigeria with Mr. Buhari, whose ancestral group is responsible for atrocities.

“We’re deeply concerned by religious violence in Nigeria, including the burning of churches and the killing and persecution of Christians. It’s a horrible story,” Mr. Trump said with Mr. Buhari at his side in the Rose Garden. “We encourage Nigeria and the federal, state and local leaders to do everything in their power to immediately secure the affected communities and to protect innocent civilians of all faiths, including Muslims and including Christians.”

With international attention focused on Boko Haram, little notice has been paid to militant herdsmen of the Fulani people who have been responsible for killing Christians and others. Earlier this month, 19 Christians were killed in an attack.

In the past year, there have reportedly been more than 600 deaths due to Fulani unrest, including the burning of churches and homes, rapes and kidnappings.

Mr. Buhari pledged to protect human rights but did not directly address the persecution of Christians.

“The government of Nigeria remains deeply committed to the principles of human rights, as well as promotion and protection of people’s freedom, even in the process of fighting terror,” he said. “We commit to ensure that all documented cases of human rights abuses are investigated, and those responsible for violations held responsible.”

— Dave Boyer contributed to this story.

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