“It is not surprising that the authorities in this poor West African desert nation [Niger] . . . are nervously watching Boko Haram, a sect in neighboring Nigeria suspected of killing well over 400 civilians in the last five weeks alone, including children watching a soccer match over the weekend. The group’s fighters have made a habit of quietly slipping across the border into Niger to rest, rearm and refit, officials say — a pipeline the nation is eager to shut down with the Pentagon’s help. But instead of launching American airstrikes or commando raids on militants, the latest joint mission between the nations involves something else entirely: American boxes of donated vitamins, prenatal medicines and mosquito netting to combat malaria.” That from nytimes.com. To use an expression you don’t often hear in that part of Africa, oy vey . . .
Aside from the obvious question of just how eager Nigerian government officials are to do anything other than line their own pockets, there’s the less obvious question of what good American airstrikes or commando raids or foreign troop training – or vitamins – would do to protect the local populace from Islamist terrorists. How’s that working out for us in Afghanistan?
I’ve got to say it: those poor conflicted liberals! They want America to be Mighty Mouse (Here I come to save the day!). They also want American soldiers to get the Hell out of Dodge (i.e., Afghanistan and Iraq). That way they can cut military spending, free-up trillions of dollars [that we don’t have] and increase the size and scope of the federal government. So . . . what now?
With more than a decade of land wars in Iraq and Afghanistan drawing to an end, the American military’s involvement in Niger illustrates how the Pentagon is trying to juggle two competing missions in Africa: contain the spread of Islamist militancy without having to pour a lot of soldiers or money into the region.
Threats continue on the continent, but budgets are tightening at home, and the appetite to send large American armies to foreign conflicts is small. So, the Obama administration is focusing on training and advising African troops to deal with their own security threats, or providing help to European allies that have historical ties and forces in the region.
The Times’ bias is so deeply entrenched that the paper isn’t even aware of it. The entire article’s based on the firmly-held belief that it’s up to the government to protect citizens. Any government. Anywhere. Whether it’s the gang-infested streets of Compton California or a Nigerian soccer field, it’s always about top-down defence.
Across the continent this year, soldiers from a 3,500-member brigade in the Army’s storied First Infantry Division are conducting more than 100 missions, ranging from a two-man sniper team in Burundi to humanitarian exercises in South Africa.
As part of a three-week exercise, Army Green Berets from Fort Carson, Colo., and instructors from other Western countries have trained African troops in Niger to conduct combat patrols and to foil terrorist ambushes. But officials say they can also make headway in relatively simple, nonconfrontational ways, like the Pentagon’s help in organizing a medical clinic during the exercise for nearly 2,000 people in a nearby village, in the hope of encouraging intelligence sharing between the military of Niger and the local population.
“If you can develop a trusting relationship with people, you can gather any information you need,” Fougou Malam Saley, an American-trained sergeant in Niger’s army, said before the medical event and a meeting with 15 community leaders visiting from areas where Boko Haram uses subtle intimidation.
Subtle intimidation? Are you friggin’ kidding me? Check this description of a February Bokum Haram attack from allafrica.com:
“I was shot on my left leg, while I was sleeping. When I woke up, I could not walk and was later taken to the girls hostel where the insurgents gathered us with the female students. They selected some of the female students and went away with them, while they left some of us groaning in pain from gun shot”.
Those were the words of 14-year-old Ibrahim Musa Lampo, a JSS 2 student of Federal Government College, FGC, Bunu Yadi, Yobe State who was one of the lucky survivors of the Boko Haram massacre on Tuesday, which claimed the lives of 43 students. The insurgents also burnt the hostels, classrooms and more than 40 houses during the attack.
That seems like a pretty clear message to me. And if the people didn’t get the message there’s this from the BBC, just two days ago:
Suspected militants have shot dead at least 39 people in an attack on a village in north-eastern Nigeria.
The attackers – believed to be from the Boko Haram group – destroyed the entire village of Mainok, about 50km (30 miles) west of the city of Maiduguri.
The incident took place late on Saturday, hours after two bomb blasts killed at least 50 people in Maiduguri.
Boko Haram has been conducting a four-year violent campaign to demand Islamic rule in northern Nigeria.
In response the U.S. is training troops with dubious loyalties and capabilities and doling out goodies to the locals for intel. Hearts and minds people. Hearts and minds. Again, Afghanistan.
What’s the alternative? Here’s an idea. Encourage northern Nigerians to exercise their natural, civil and not-Constitutionally-protected right to keep and bear arms in their own defense. GIVE THEM GUNS. Teach them how to use them. It worked for the Brits in Malaysia when Her Majesty’s Government didn’t have two pennies to rub together. It could work, well, anywhere. Hartford, Connecticut?
Sounds crazy, I know. Why would you want Nigerians (or Hartfordians) to defend themselves by force of arms? That would create chaos! Before you know it they’d be wondering why the hell they’re paying taxes to those corrupt officials who do nothing to stop the killing? Why don’t we do what the Mexican autodefensa groups are doing and take control of our own security and our own destiny, economically and politically?
Back to the Times:
In the past two years, the United States has spent $33 million to build Niger’s counterterrorism abilities, providing equipment such as radios, water and fuel trucks, spare parts, helmets, body armor, uniforms and GPS devices . . .
American officials are putting the finishing touches on a plan for United States Army instructors to help train an 850-member battalion of rangers as part of Nigeria’s new special forces command.
I wonder if that will tip the balance of power in Nigeria. If the military starts feeling its oats, well, it wouldn’t be the first time that U.S. equipped and trained military forces seized power in a politically unstable not-to-say-profoundly-corrupt country.
Anyway, how much would it cost to train and equip citizen militias? Oops! I forgot: the Nigerian government doesn’t want that solution. They’d prefer to let sleeping dogs lie – even if it means that school children are being massacred and villages burned to the ground. Perhaps a little military action to reassure the locals that something’s being done and then it’s back to business. For the Boko Haram as well. And lucky us, we get to pick up the tab for all of it.