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Chances of US sending in Marines grow after damning indictment of Nigerian Army

POSSIBILITIES of the US sending in a special unit of Marine commandoes to rescue the 234 kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls have increased lately after military analysts revealed that the Nigerian Army lacks the capacity to carry out such a task.

Over the last week, US military analysts have been exploring the means of working with the Nigerian Army to rescue the girls and several trainers are on the ground offering technical expertise.

However, after reviewing the situation, senior US military and civilian officials have questioned the capability of the Nigerian military, even with foreign assistance, to carry out a successful rescue operation.

Alice Friend, the Pentagon’s principal director for African affairs, said that Nigerian security forces have so diminished in capability that they are currently afraid to even engage Boko Haram. Testifying before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday, Ms Friend alluded to the fact that morale appears to be very low within the military.

Ms Friend added: "We’re now looking at a military force that’s quite frankly, becoming afraid to even engage. The Nigerian military has the same challenges with corruption that every other institution in Nigeria does as much of the funding that goes to the Nigerian military is skimmed off the top, if you will.”

Other senior officials including defence secretary Chuck Hagel; Robert Jackson, the acting assistant secretary of state for African Affairs and Earl Gast, the United States Agency for International Development's assistant administrator for Africa, also testified before the committee.

They all gave a troubling evaluation of the Nigerian government’s tactics against Boko Haram and the military’s refusal to up its games and improve on its human rights record. Already, there have been calls for the US to take unilateral action in rescuing the girls, with Senator John McCain, saying this should be done even without the approval of the Nigerian government.

In addition, all 20 female US senators have joined the call for action against Boko Haram. Earlier this week, the senators gathered for a private dinner with secretary of state John Kerry, at which they pushed to have the United Nations designate Boko Haram as a terrorist organisation on its Al- Qaeda sanctions list.

They also want the US to provide surveillance assets and to consider providing a team of special forces to locate and rescue the girls. So far, the US military is said to consider any option of being asked to send in special forces to locate and rescue the girls as risky.

For now, the actual efforts on the ground to find and retrieve the missing girls is left in the hands of the Nigerian military, scorned for corruption, poor equipment and human rights abuses. Those concerns have fuelled frustration among the foreign partners offering assistance who doubt the Nigerian Army's capability.

So far, the Pentagon has persuaded the Nigerian authorities to adopt a more holistic approach to fighting Boko Haram, involving building programmes to counter improvised explosive devices and build improved understanding between the military and the public. Mr Jackson added: "We have been urging Nigeria to reform its approach to Boko Haram.

From our own difficult experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq, we know that turning the tide of an insurgency requires more than force. "The state must demonstrate to its citizens that it can protect them and offer them opportunities.

When soldiers destroy towns, kill civilians and detain innocent people with impunity, mistrust takes root.” A report by the US State Department in 2013 showed that of 1,377 Nigerian soldiers vetted in 2012 to receive training, 211 were rejected or suspended because of human rights concerns.

According to Ms Friend, the US has struggled to find Nigerian formations it can deal with and only one unit of rangers was seen to be acceptable and is currently undergoing training.

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Posted By On 02:00 Sat, 17 May 2014

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