The Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command in Africa, Major General Dagvin Anderson has called on the Nigerian government to take the lead in the fight against insurgency in the country saying ”insurgents have started penetrating the north-western part of the country where they were already making some inroads, adding that they were looking to expand further south into the coastal areas.”
He gave the advice at a digital press briefing on Wednesday saying the U.S. would continue to support the Nigerian government with intelligence sharing on what the terrorists are doing especially supplying constant information on the operations of the insurgents in Borno State and the North-West.
And responding to questions from journalists about the insurgency in Nigeria which has claimed many lives and displaced millions of people in the North East, He up held that for international efforts to yield desired results in the fight against terrorism in Nigeria, the government must take the lead. Nigeria, he said is a critical nation to West Africa. It is huge not just in its economy and population, but influence in the region. It is a critical nation and we realize that Nigeria is a linchpin.
He empathized that for this action to have meaningful effect against the Violent Extremist Organization (VEOs) and other stressors, it would really take the government of Nigeria to lead that effort and to build that energy to congregate. So no nation can come in and fix this problem for Nigeria.
The briefing was arranged to discuss U.S. partnerships with African nations to reduce extremism, combat terrorist organizations, and bring about peace and prosperity throughout the African continent.
The United States can assist in league with the United Kingdom as well as other countries can come in. Many countries can come and assist with that partnership – but ultimately it takes leadership from Nigeria in order for us to focus our efforts. We need to understand where Nigeria wants to focus those efforts so we can partner appropriately to have the best effect.
He remarked that the U.S have partnered with Nigeria to produced great outcomes in counter-terrorism in the past. We have had good engagements with their air force in particular and providing C-208 capability, which is a light, fixed-wing ISR [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] platform, very capable, and we’ve had good engagement.
We have had good engagements with their air force in integrating their air force with their ground forces in order to make their air force more effective. Nigeria is a large country, it’s got a lot of territories to cover, and so it’s critical that they have that air component and that air engagement. So, we have had positive engagements there.
Recently, the Nigerian coast guard was reported to have rescued some Chinese fishermen that were adrift out off their coast. That was a combination of engagement from the U.S, where the U.S. had engaged with their maritime forces and helped build their maritime awareness along their coast.
He alluded the feat to the partnership with their neighbors in Togo and Benin as well, who helped with that whole operation to understand the intelligence that led them to where these fishermen were, but then it was the unit that went out and did that was a Nigerian special operations unit that our Navy SEALs had trained a few years previously.
So sometimes it’s not the immediate effect, it’s the effect that happens two or three years later as you combine these engagements that have a greater effect later on. I know that’s just one small example and it’s not directly against terrorism, but being able to engage in that maritime domain and to be able to understand what’s going on out there is critical, and that has been an engagement the United States has had over several years with Nigeria and those other coastal states in both the naval and the special operations forces.
And being more direct he explained that the U.S government have engaged with Nigeria and continue to engage with them in intelligence sharing and in understanding what these violent extremists are doing, and that has been absolutely critical to their engagements up in Borno State and into an emerging area of northwest Nigeria that we’re seeing al-Qaida starting to make some inroads in.
He stressed that this intelligence sharing is absolutely vital and we stay fully engaged with the Government of Nigeria to provide them an understanding of what these terrorists are doing, what Boko Haram is doing, what ISIS-West Africa is doing, and how ISIS and al-Qaida are looking to expand further south into the littoral areas.
We, as a community of international nations, keep thinking we have defeated them, or we have put them on their back foot and that they’re just moments from disintegration. I think after twenty years we have seen they are very resilient organisations that, although small, they’re able to leverage social media and other forms of media to have an outsized voice and that they continue to recruit and they continue to find opportunities. What they were in the ’90s and what they preyed upon in the ’90s is different than what we saw in the 2000s in Afghanistan and then in Iraq, and now as we see them come back into Africa and engage more in Africa, we see them exploit other grievances and other divides.
He was done talking though with reservation that, “we see them being very resilient, creative, and flexible. So I’d ask all of the partners, all of our partners, not to underestimate the threat and not to underestimate what they’re capable of doing and that they are very patient and that they are willing to look for opportunities as they emerge.”