U.S. providing Advisory and Surveillance Support
As a result of –
– 219 remaining Nigerian school abductees rumored to be in the Sambisa Forest in northeastern Nigeria near the Cameroon border;
– the widening Boko Haram attacks (Human Rights Watch says 2,053 civilians have been killed during the first half of 2014 compared with 3,600 deaths in the first four years of the conflict);
– the July 22 attacks on Damboa (Nigeria), where six soldiers, five policeman, and 66 civilians were killed and 15,000 residents displaced;
– some 1,000 Chadian migrants – most of them children separated from their families – having fled Boko Haram-related violence in Nigeria to the village of N’Gbouboua in the Lac region of western Chad;
– about 10,000 people have reportedly fled northern Nigeria for Chad and Niger in recent weeks, fleeing violent crackdowns and Boko Haram violence;
– Boko Haram suspected in destroying the major Ngala Bridge on July 23 on a key transport link in Borno State (Nigeria) between northeastern Nigeria and Cameroon that has disrupted trade and civil transportation between the two nations;
– a spate of Boko Haram abductions in Cameroon – including tourists and priests in 2013 and in April and July 2014; and
– new Boko Haram recruitment in Niger and Chad;
the BBC reports that the four nations have agreed to create a new 2,800 soldier force to hunt and battle Boko Haram.
With this emergence as a regional threat, the defence ministers of the four nations met in Niamey in May and agreed to share intelligence and border security prior to this July agreement to combine troops and efforts to pursue Boko Haram in concert.
U.S. troops and drones support operations
The four nations are being assisted by the new U.S. drone base in Niamey, Niger’s capital with Reaper surveillance drones and circa. 100 U.S. military personnel to service and operate the drones, announced by President Obama in February.
Craig Whitlock in the Washington post reported in March that:
President Issoufou Mahamadou said his government invited Washington to send surveillance drones because he was worried that the country might not be able to defend its borders from Islamist fighters based in Mali, Libya or Nigeria.
“We welcome the drones,” Mahamadou said in an interview at the presidential palace in Niamey. Citing the “feeble capability” of many West African militaries, he said Niger — which is three times the size of California — and its neighbors desperately needed foreign help to track the movements of guerrillas across the Sahara and Sahel, an arid territorial belt that covers much of the region.
“Our countries are like the blind leading the blind,” he said. “We rely on countries like France and the United States. We need cooperation to ensure our security…”
U.S. officials said they share video footage and other intelligence collected by the unmanned aircraft with French forces and African troops — including 670 soldiers from Niger — who are fighting the Islamist insurgency in Mali. Liaison officers from Niger, France and Chad work alongside U.S. Air Force personnel who launch and land the drones from the base in Niamey.”
In mid-May, President Obama notified Congress under the War Powers Resolution that 80 U.S. soldiers, all combat-armed for personnel protection, were being sent to Chad in a drone operation to “…support the operation of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft for missions over northern Nigeria and the surrounding area,” President Barack Obama said in a letter. “The force will remain in Chad until its support in resolving the kidnapping situation is no longer required.” The U.S. operation flying from Chad includes unarmed Predator drones, the larger and longer-range Global Hawk, and manned, specially-equipped twin engine turbo prop planes.
This Joint Special Operations Air Detachment is operating out of Ouagadougou and joins the secret DOD/CIA Operation Creek Sand of surveillance flights since 2007 with Air Force UA-28A planes, piloted by U.S. military and contractor personnel for electronic and visual surveillance. These Swiss-built Pilatus C-12 planes fly out of bases in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso), Djibouti, and, until the 2008 coup, Nouakchott (Mauritania), Uganda, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Camp Lemonnier (Djibouti), Kenya, and the Seychelles.
In addition, Al-Jazeera reports President Obama has deployed a team of 30 U.S. officials to Nigeria to help with the efforts to rescue the remaining missing schoolgirls from Chibok. The U.S. team includes five State Department officials, two strategic communications experts, a civilian security expert, a regional medical support officer, 10 Defense Department planners already in Nigeria, seven additional military advisors from the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), and four FBI officials expert in hostage negotiations.