“Fundamentally, the question of what this is achieving, that is a question you should pose to the Nigerian government and not AFRICOM.”
The United States says the Nigerian government should be held responsible for the seeming lack of progress in rescuing the over 200 kidnapped teenage girls.
The over 270 girls were kidnapped from the dormitory of the Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, on April 14, by the Boko Haram.
Over 50 of them escaped and reunited with their family while 219 are believed to still be with the insurgents.
The U.S. is among several Western countries assisting Nigeria is the search for the girls and the battle against the insurgent Boko Haram, which has killed over 12,000 people since its insurgency began in 2009.
Reacting to questions about how useful the collaboration has been, Ambassador Phillip Carter of the U.S. African Command (AFRICOM) said the U.S. government is only assisting the Nigerian government on the kidnap that has sparked protests across the globe.
“Fundamentally, the question of what this is achieving, that is a question you should pose to the Nigerian government and not AFRICOM,” he said.
The Nigerian government has been criticised for its failure to rescue the girls over two months since their abduction. The Nigerian military has said it knows the whereabouts of the girls but would not use force to rescue them to avoid casualty.
Mr. Carter, speaking during the 6th U.S. Africa Command Academic Symposium in Accra, Ghana, explained the existing partnership with the Nigerian government on efforts to rescue the girls.
“We were asked by the leadership of Nigeria to provide help to the Nigerian government to deal with the horrible phenomenon, Boko Haram. We have an inter-agency, inter-government effort with the Nigerian government run through our embassy in Abuja under our ambassador,” he said.
The ambassador also debunked rumours that the U.S. government is leading any operation in Nigeria. He said AFRICOM’s core engagement with Nigeria includes locating the girls and improving the Nigerian Security Forces’ capacity to manage information.
“[AFRICOM] is not leading them (Nigerian soldiers) to do anything. We are not putting any equipment on the ground. We are only to support them. That is the direction of President Obama and the request of President Jonathan,” he said.
He explained some of the Command’s activities on the continent, and said AFRICOM has no intensions of militarising Africa. He said AFRICOM is a geographic combatant command of the U.S. Defense Department and is focused on military relations with African states and other regional security organisations on the continent. AFRICOM, which began operations in 2007, is located in Germany but holds liaison officers at key African posts in the continent.
Mr. Carter, who served as U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Guinea from 2007 to 2008 and has also served in other capacities in Africa, Asia, and South America, delivered opening remarks at the kick-off of the Symposium which will run from June 23 to 26.
Also speaking during the event, the representative of the Ghanaian Minister of Defence, Mark Woyongo, bemoaned the mixed results achieved by security operatives in the sub-region.
“This year’s theme which is titled Perspectives and Partners on Population-Centric Security Sector Transformation is both timely and topical because of the contemporary security challenges facing our region and Africa as a whole,” he said.