Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Niger create 2,800 soldier force to battle Boko Haram

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.  _71555635_terror_groups_in_africa_2_624

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.


More analysis on the Nigerian crisis and Boko Haram

In his excellent AfricaFocus Bulletin website, William Minter offers us on June 9, 2014 Nigeria: Beyond the Hashtag Debates containing more analyses from six sources plus the important Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre’s 5 June 2014 Briefing Paper, “Nigeria: Fleeing Boko Haram’s relentless terror.

Minter notes, “The debates on #BringBackOurGirls, a hashtag initiated by Nigerian protesters and picked up around the world, have ranged widely, without any clear consensus on answers to the complex questions of what should be done and by whom. It is easy to say that the longerterm response to Boko Haram must address broader causes, and that the Nigerian military must shift from a policy that adds to the violence rather than protecting people. But whether the outside world can find useful ways to assist such a change in Nigeria remains doubtful (a $6 million counter-terrorism satellite channel, just reported in the New York Times, seems a particularly clear example of what not to do).”

At his always interesting blog, another key analyst of Nigerian affairs, Carl Levan, offers more thinking on how to respond beyond the hashtags.  See Brainstorming with #BringBackOurGirls.

Levan notes that “Some of the most interesting and practical suggestions sprouting up from the grassroots have not been making their way into the broader discussions about finding Nigeria’s missing girls. Here are some ideas threaded together, based on my daily conversations with civil society organizations, government officials, and international solidarity activists…”


Beyond the hashtags: Supporting an effective response to the Nigerian crisis

Hashtages don't liberate hostages. We do. BnT3HpzCIAE8bCl In a good oveview of the campaign to #BringBackOurGirls in the May 12 National Review Online, Michael Shank writes on “The Harm in Hashtags: Feel-good tweets do not address the root causes of Boko Haram’s violence.“Shank notes that much of the U.S. concern, like the campaign to Stop Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), supports an unproductive and enlarged role for the U.S. military in Africa as a number of hashtaggers urged. (See photo.)

Shank writes,

American policymakers are increasingly prone to handling conflicts by ignoring or eliminating the adversary and trusting that this will solve the problem. By killing Osama bin Laden, Kony, or Abubakar Shekau (Boko Haram’s current leader), the U.S. deals a blow to the momentum of Islamist movements but pays no heed to the fact that another 20 followers are ready replacements. This is the thinking that guides America’s increasing reliance on drone warfare and special-operations units — the belief that our enemies are finite in number and that we can exterminate them through strategic, surgical strikes. Meanwhile, the wider conflict rages on, reaching into more and more regions.

No amount of hashtagging, no matter how well-intentioned, will “bring back our girls.” And unintentionally, the tweets and selfies can send the message to impressionable populations that Western elites are once again using elitist mechanisms to gain control. If America truly wants to rescue Nigeria’s innocent children, it must rescue their future. For many, there is no future, and this has swelled the ranks of Boko Haram. Build the possibility of a future and violent revolution becomes a lot less appealing. Nigerians will have something to live for, not die for. Let’s start hashtagging that. But in the meantime, let’s bring our kids home, be they in North America or northeast Nigeria.”

So, constructively and beyond hashtags, what should be done to effectively and intelligently address the Nigerian crisis, and what should U.S. resources and foreign policy seek to achieve? A new and important set of answers was offered on June 4 in “Putting Communities at the Center of Crisis Response in Nigeria” – a joint statement by Friends Committee on National Legislation, Mercy Corps, , and Search for Common Ground.  With many specifics, they call:

…for the United States government to work with the Nigerian government, civil society, and other actors to mitigate and respond to conflict by providing rapid and robust assistance to violence-affected communities. In particular, the following is needed:

  • 1. Mitigate harm from insecurity in northern Nigeria by providing rapid and robust assistance to violence- affected communities…
  • 2. Work with all actors to bring the current crisis to a swift close…
  • 3. Invest in medium and long-term solutions to address the underlying factors of the crisis…

Jim Cason: “Don’t Replace Big Wars with Small Ones”

President Obama’s speech on foreign policy last week at West Point succeeded in uniting the Washington Post, NYTimes, and Wall Street Journal in opposing his formulation of a post-Afghanistan foreign policy.  “Ludicrous … uninspiring … disturbing,” said the NYTimes, which went on to back his proposal “to spend spend $5 billion to train and support armies in places like Libya, Mali, Yemen and Somalia to combat terrorists and thereby …to avoid having to use American troops…”  The Washington Post editors accused Obama of the “…binding of U.S. power… at odds with every U.S. president since World War II. In effect, he ruled out interventions to stop genocide or reverse aggression absent a direct threat to the U.S. homeland or a multilateral initiative.”

Contrary to these editors, who appeared to want a more definitively hawkish policy that is quick to respond to perceived compromises of U.S. interests, veteran Africa observer Jim Cason proposes a different perspective to protect long-term U.S. interests as well as those of African nations.

Cason at FCNL argues on 05/29/2014 :

President Barack Obama new vision of the U.S. role in the world offers a shift from fighting large wars in a few places to mounting small scale military engagements in many more countries. I think the president got this new vision half right.

I was glad to hear the president report that U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan will decline to less than 10,000 troops by the end of this year and will come to a complete end by the end of 2016 (although I agree with Jim McGovern’s caveat). “Since World War II, some of our most costly mistakes came …from our willingness to rush into military adventures without thinking through the consequences.”

“Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail,” he added. “We have to broaden our tools to include diplomacy and development, sanctions and isolation, appeals to international law, and, if just, necessary and effective, multilateral military action.”

The president has been building this argument for several weeks: “Why is it that everybody is so eager to use military force after we’ve just gone through a decade of war at enormous cost to our troops and to our budget. And what is it exactly that these critics think would have been accomplished?” he asked at a press conference.

We need to speak out loudly in support when we like what the president says. Our voices are especially important now because these reasoned statements have provoked a sustained series of attacks on the president’s foreign policy, first from unnamed spies and administration officials who believe the president’s weak foreign policy is somehow to blame for Russian aggression in the Ukraine and then yesterday from the Washington Post that ran an editorial headlined “President Obama continues his retreat from Afghanistan…” –continue reading–

Obama announces $5 billion Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund for African Sahel & South Asia

Twice this week, the U.S. military in Africa has been on the NYTimes frontpage. The most recent headline is “U.S. Troops to Leave Afghanistan by End of 2016,” (By Mark Landler (2014-05-27) and is followed by the sub-head “Focus to shift to Terror Threats Elsewhere.” It became clearer this week that Africa probably is the main “elsewhere.”

President Obama, Commander in Chief at West Point Commencement

President Obama, Commander in Chief at West Point Commencement

On Wednesday, during his commencement address at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, President Obama told the graduates that “American isolationism is not an option” but cautioned that a “willingness to rush into military adventures” since the 9/11 terror attacks had produced “some of our most costly mistakes.”

At the same time, Obama noted that the withdrawal of combat troops from Afghanistan would free up resources to confront an “emerging terrorist threat stretching from the Middle East to Africa.”

Simultaneously, Obama called on Congress to support a new $5 billionCounterterrorism Partnerships Fund” to respond to evolving terrorist threats…” from South Asia to the Sahel…” The White House said the program “will provide the flexibility and resources required to respond to emerging needs as terrorist threats around the world continue to evolve” and to pay for “expanded or enhanced Defense Department efforts, including intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and Special Operations activities.” At the same time, according to senior congressional aides, Obama announced plans to expand the use of the war-related Overseas Contingency Operations Fund further beyond the scope of Afghanistan to help battle terrorism in the Middle East and North Africa, including, specifically, “…to help the U.S. train security forces in Yemen, support anti-terrorism forces in Somalia, work with France and other European allies to patrol the Libyan borders, aid the French in military operations in Mali, and other objectives.”

This proposed new anti-terrorism program emerges as the full extent of growing U.S. engagement in Africa and the expansion of AFRICOM has become more clear (See our previous post.)

New U.S. troops to Chad brings to 13 the African countries with U.S. military presence

Adam Taylor, Washington Post, 21 May 2014) adds to Craig Whitlock’s May 21 Washington Post report to conclude that the U.S. military currently has “boots on the ground” in 13 African countries.  Here is an abstracted summary of their reports:


  • Burkina Faso: U.S. base in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, since 2007. The base acts as a hub of a U.S spying network in the region, with spy planes departing form the base to fly over Mali, Mauritania and the Sahara, where they search for fighters from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo: Troops assisting in the search for Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
  • Central African Republic: In April 2013, the United States had circa. 40 troops in Central African Republic assisting the search for the LRA.
  • Chad: On Wednesday, Washington announced that it would be sending 80 troops to Chad to help with the search for Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by militant Islamist group Boko Haram.
  • Djibouti: Major base with circa 4,000 troops in Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, including many aircraft and drones.
  • Ethiopia: Military drone base at Arba Minch since 2011 to fly Reaper drones over East Africa.
  • Kenya: Camp Simba, near the border with Somalia, had around 60 military personnel stationed as of November 2013. The US also is providing Raven drones for Kenya are part of an initial $41.4 million package of military aid that also includes trucks, communications gear and rifles for Burundi, Djibouti and Uganda.
  • Mali: In April 2013, 10 U.S. troops were deployed to Mali to provide “liaison support” to French and African troops. The Pentagon insisted they would not be engaging in combat.
  • Niger: In 2013, U.S. Air Force drone base set up in Niamey, Niger with circa 100 military personnel in the country on an “intelligence collection” mission.
  • Nigeria: At the beginning of May, a small team of U.S. troops and civilian advisers was deployed to Nigeria to join the search for the abducted schoolgirls. According to the AP, these troops joined around 70 military personnel in Nigeria, with 50 regularly assigned to the U.S. Embassy, and 20 Marines there for training.
  • Somalia: In early 2014, the United States deployed fewer than two dozen regular troops to Somalia for training and advising purposes. (This number does not include the CIA and Special Operations personnel there.)
  • South Sudan: In December 2013, the United States deployed 45 military personnel to South Sudan to protect U.S. citizens and property in the country.
  • Uganda: The United States has a base in Entebbe that it uses to fly PC-12 surveillance aircraft in search of Kony’s LRA as well as Raven drones for the Ugandan military. The total number of U.S. troops in Uganda is said to be around 300, and they are officially in the country to “provide information, advice and assistance” to an African Union force searching for LRA.

This count does not include U.S. military and intelligence personnel focused on Africa at the following bases and facilities (source: AFRICOM):

  • additional African countries in which the U.S. has covert CIA and Special Operations personnel
  • military personnel stationed for protection of U.S. embassies or consulates in Africa
    U.S. military personnel, planes, and equipment stationed at AFRICOM headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany (ca. 1,500)
  • AFRICOM units at MacDill Air Force Base (Florida) and RAF Molesworth, (England)
    U.S. Army Africa (USARAF) operating from Vicenza (Italy)
  • a contingent of the 550-Marine rapid reaction force in Sigonella (Italy)
  • U.S. Naval Forces Africa (NAVAF) headquartered in Naples (Italy)
  • U.S. Marine Corps Forces Africa (MARFORAF) in Stuttgart (Germany)U.S. Air Forces Africa (AFAFRICA) bases in Morón AB, Torrejón AB, and Naval Station Rota (Spain), and Italy as part of the AFRICOM support of its operations on the continent
  • additional AFRICOM Security Cooperation and Defense Attaché Offices in approximately 38 nations
  • AFRICOM units at MacDill Air Force Base (Florida) and RAF Molesworth, (England)
    additional AFRICOM liaison officers at key African posts, including the African Union (Ethiopia), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) (Nigeria), and the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping and Training Centre (Ghana)
    AFRICOM personnel at the Pentagon in Washington.
  • personnel in the U.S. at many military research, studies, and training institutes conducting research on Africa and training military and intelligence personnel from Africa during their training visits to the U.S.

U.S. Osprey Aircraft removed from hunt for Lord’s Resistance Army, probably to re-enforce U.S. crisis-response team in Sicily

MV-22-Osprey-stack predator_drone Sigonella IT Sigonella Base, Sicilye4da463336a5dd536158544f706b3d66 Jeremy Binnie, (London) in IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, (April 14) reported that after a short stay in Central and East Africa, the U.S. tiltrotor Osprey aircraft have been removed from the U.S. operations against the Lord’s Resistance Army (See previous blogpost); however, Binnie does not report why they have been removed.

From an article by David Cencotti in the Aviationist (May 22), it seems likely that the Ospreys may have been relocated to the U.S. Naval Air Base Sigonella in southeastern Sicily, “…to prepare for a possible evacuation of American personnel from the embassy in Tripoli…where seven MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft supported by three KC-130Js along with a force of about 180 Marines and sailors have been forward deployed to Italy as a U.S. crisis-response team at Sigonella.” “If called to facilitate the evacuation of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya, the aircraft would be able to reach the Tripoli in little more than one hour. Indeed, Sigonella is the perfect location to launch a Special Operation in North Africa.”

Naval Air Station Sigonella “…acts as landlord to more than 34 other U.S. commands and activities” including logistical support for the U.S. Navy Sixth Fleet, NATO forces in the Mediterranean, and drones for surveillance over Mali.  A second U.S. base in Morón, Spain also supports U.S. AFRICOM and NATO air operations in the Middle East, North Africa, and the Mediterranean.

Already, about one-quarter of the Marine Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response, created in April 2013 in response to the consulate attack in Benghazi, was moved in May 2014 from their base in Morón, Spain, to Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy, in order to be closer to potential African operations, such as the January 2014 evacuation of 20 U.S. embassy personnel in South Sudan during the renewed conflict there.

French & German Joint Operations in Mali

The following article, and a second one following with a map, reveal the depth of French commitment to training and ant-terrorism work in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Chad in addition to the 2,000 French troops in CAR. Now, the operation is increasingly characterized as an EU operation with, as noted below, Franco-German cooperation. These suggest how much the U.S. AFRICOM is relying on African and European troops for direct anti-terror training and operations while the U.S. relies on the CIA and SpecialOps for many more covert attack and training operations.

Franco-German joint military brigade heads to Mali

“France and Germany have decided to send elements of the Franco-German Brigade to Mali: the first deployment under the aegis of the EU and in an African location,” a joint statement said following a security and defence meeting in Paris between the two countries.

The brigade is highly symbolic in nature, as it is difficult for both countries to deploy soldiers to hotspots jointly, given the different rules of engagement that govern each army.

The Islamists took control of northern Mali, ruling it under a brutal vision of Islamic law until former colonial ruler France sent in troops to flush them out in January 2013. But the rebels are regrouping in the desert and remain an ever-present threat to security.

UN peacekeepers took over security in July last year from the Pan-African AFISMA military mission, which had been supporting the French troops.

France is winding down its deployment from a peak of around 5,000 soldiers but will keep 1,000 troops in Mali beyond the northern spring.

Map: France revamps military operations in Africa’s Sahel

New Organization of French Forces in the Sahel, Text and Map by FRANCE 24

New Organization of French Forces in the Sahel, Text and Map by FRANCE 24

France’s military has unveiled its new blueprint for fighting extremist groups in the remote and often lawless Sahel region of Africa. FRANCE 24 pinpoints the key launch pads for future operations.

Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Thursday that France’s military was moving into a new “counter-terrorism” phase of its military intervention in Mali, known as Operation Serval, and will reorganise its troops and materiel in the wider region that includes Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad.

This French operation was supported by the US Army sector of AFRICOM in planning, intelligence, and logistics via Operation Juniper Micron using planes from Scott AFB in Illinois and army support from Camp Darby in central Italy to transport French troops from their base in Istres (Provence) to Mali.

“Around 3,000 soldiers will remain in the expansive area of Africa to check Islamist violence and arms trafficking, with no specified exit date,” Le Drian said.

French forces will be organised around four base camps, each with its own focus, and with headquarters based in the Chadian capital of Ndjamena.

This map does not identify Ivory Coast as the base entry portal for these French anti-terrorism forces as noted in previous press releases.

US Military Averaging More than a Mission a Day in Africa

Nick Turse’s data and map (below) from AFRICOM and the DOD reminds us of the explosion of the militarization of US Africa policy – both in missions in Africa with (1) “a 94% increase in all activities by Army personnel from 2011 to 2013, including a (a) 174% surge in State Partnership missions (from 34 to 93) and (b) a 436% jump in Advise-and-Assist activities including ACOTA missions (from 11 to 59).  Last year, according to a December 2013 document, these efforts involved everything from teaching Kenyan troops how to use Raven surveillance drones and helping Algerian forces field new mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles, or MRAPS, to training Chadian and Guinean infantrymen and aiding France’s ongoing interventions in West and Central Africa.”  Turse’s data do not include the hundreds of US military and intelligence personnel in US embassies in Africa and in the Africa security agencies and Africa-focused policy and studies programs in the U.S in the DOD and its many contractors.

In the meantime, the US is $200 million in arrears in funding its obligation to support the costs of the 15 current UN peacekeeping missions, including in DRCongo, South Sudan, Darfur, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, and Western Sahara.

Map and chart of US Military in Africa

U.S. Aircraft to Uganda hunting for warlord Joseph Kony and LRA

U.S. Air Force Osprey Aircraft sent to Uganda

U.S. Air Force Osprey Aircraft sent to Uganda

The U.S. is upping its commitment to the thus far unsuccessful search for Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army by dispatching four Osprey Aircraft plus KC-130 transport and refueling tanker planes, and 150 Air Force Special Forces plus air crews to add to the 150 U.S. troops already based in Uganda for the search for the Lord’s Resistance Army in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic.

U.S. sends Osprey aircraft, more Special Forces to Uganda to hunt warlord Joseph Kony

By Karen DeYoung, Sunday, March 23, 2014

President Obama has ordered a sharp increase in U.S. Special Forces deployed to Uganda and sent U.S. military aircraft there for the first time in the ongoing effort to hunt down warlord Joseph Kony across a broad swath of central Africa.

At least four CV-22 Osprey aircraft will arrive in Uganda by midweek, along with refueling aircraft and about 150 Air Force Special Forces and other airmen to fly and maintain the planes, according to Amanda Dory, deputy assistant secretary of defense for African affairs…The new War Powers Act notification sets the approximate total for all U.S. forces in Uganda at 300.

Administration officials who described the new deployments insisted they did not imply any weakening in the Obama administration’s criticism of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni for signing a new law imposing harsh penalties for “homosexual offenses.”

See analysis of the Invisible Children’s and STOPKONY 2012 movements and US military and African Union forces chasing the LRA, see:

  1. React and Respond: The Phenomenon of Kony 2012, is now available on the ACAS webpage Resources on Uganda, the LRA, and Central Africa
  3. Africa: KONY 2012, Selected Reflections, Africa Focus,
  4. The Problem with Invisible Children’s “Kony 2012? – By Michael Deibert, March 8, 2012 by AfricanArguments,