Cairo–Just about everyone deplores Boko Haram, the Nigerian terror militia, and its horrific assaults on civilians. So why does the United States decline to arm the Nigerian military?
In recent days, there has been some good news from the front: the release of around 300 girls abducted by Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria. It was a rare success by the Nigerian military, which along with West African neighbors, has been on the offensive against Boko Haram.
No one is predicting a quick end to the insurgency, which has been raging since 2009. Just yesterday, Boko Haram gunmen raided a business school, and killed a security guard and at least three students.
The battle in Nigeria has been eclipsed in the public mind by the Middle East smorgasbord of warfare: in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. The US under President Obama has been reluctant to involve itself heavily in any of these, although it has supplied training to the Iraqis and some sort of military supplies to approved rebel factions in Syria. Yemen involves a proxy war between Saudi Arabia, purchaser of US weaponry, and Iran.
The hands-off approach applies also to Nigeria, though for different reasons. The Administration asserts that the Nigerian army and police are serial human rights abusers and corrupt. So Obama not only refuses to arm the Nigerians, but blocked an Israeli sale of helicopters to Abuja in January because the vehicles include US technology.
The debate: Is this the time to reform the Nigerian military, when the army is in the midst of a vicious conflict; or later, when Boko Haram is defeated? One might have thought that, with the election of a new Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari, a kind of honeymoon with the US might set in. Not so far.
There’s no question that the Nigerian military has been guilty of gross human rights violations and corruption that has fed the insurgency. But are we to believe that the US only supplies weaponry to squeaky clean governments? Egypt, anyone?
It seems that some sort of accommodation in Nigeria’s case could be reached to trade particular anti-insurgent weaponry for reform.
Daily Beast lays out Administration objections.
An academic says there is no military solution.