Sunday 25 February 2018

US army to provide equipment and training in fight against Boko Haram

The leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau (with papers) in a video grab taken in July (Photo: Getty)
The leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau (with papers) in a video grab taken in July (Photo: Getty)

Daniel Flynn

The United States military will provide equipment and intelligence to help African nations in the fight against Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram.

West African military commanders have long complained that cross-border operations against Islamist groups have been obstructed by lack of compatible communications equipment, making it hard to swap information and coordinate.

Commander of the US Special Forces operating in Africa, Major General James Linder confirmed that, as part of counter-terrorism exercises, the United States would be providing technology allowing African partners to communicate between cellphones, radios and computers.

The system also incorporates a translation function that would allow commanders in francophone countries like Chad to communicate by message with English-speaking officers in Nigeria.

Boko Haram killed an estimated 10,000 people last year in its campaign to carve an Islamist emirate from northern Nigeria.

Read More: Boko Haram attacks Chad for first time

Amid growing international alarm, the four nations of the Lake Chad region -- Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Nigeria -- plus neighbouring Benin are preparing a joint task-force of 8,700 men to take on the Sunni jihadist group.

Chad's military, which played a leading role in a French-led campaign that ousted Islamist groups from northern Mali in 2013, has already led attacks against Boko Haram positions in Nigeria's border regions.

"The Lake Chad nations are battling Boko Haram and we have a vested interest in that group of nations' collective success ... What Boko Harm is doing is a murderous rampage, about brutality intolerance and subjugation," Linder said.

"Our national leadership has been very clear that more was going to be done ... There is an ongoing discussion on how will we provide additional tools, techniques, and material to partner nations."

The US military will also be introducing a Cloud-based technology to allows African allies to quickly share intelligence across borders, such as mapping information the location of potential targets, Linder said.

Linder said that African armies were well placed to gather this kind of information, but the United States could share other kinds of intelligence to boost the success of operations against Boko Haram.

Read More: Africa agrees to send 7,500 troops to fight Boko Haram insurgency

"It's the things that we find from flying over a target and having an FMV, a full motion video, or being able to take pictures, or being able to do a different type of geo-spatial analysis or predictive analysis on the enemy," he said.

Washington's long-term goal was to enable African nations to be sufficiently trained and equipped to face their own security challenges, Linder said.


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