The United States of America that sent over only 10 military personnel has said that its assistance to rescue the 276 abducted girls is not designed to take over Nigerian military and security agencies. It also said its intervention in the rescue operation will begin in a matter of days and not weeks. Besides, said the United States, it is not on a unilateral mission because the Federal Government will continue to take the lead in the operation against Boko Haram.
The US said it would set up an interdisciplinary team at its Embassy in Abuja to coordinate the operations with the Federal Government.
The US Ambassador to Nigeria, James F. Entwistle, met with the National Security Adviser Col. Sambo Dasuki on Wednesday to work out the modalities.
The spokesperson for the US Department of State, Ms Jen Psaki, made the clarifications at a briefing in Washington late Wednesday. She said Nigeria did not accept America’s offer in theory.
The transcript of the briefing, which was released by the US Embassy in Nigeria, said in part: “Well, I believe the Secretary, from his phone call, feels it wasn’t that they just accepted in theory. They did accept our assistance, and there will need to be a discussion about how to best coordinate moving forward, but that will be happening in the coming days.
“Yes. Our understanding is the agreement is they’ll be able to do the work that we’ve proposed. Naturally, as a part of that, there’s an assessment period of what the needs are and how we can best assist and the Nigerian Government continues to have the lead. It’s not, of course, a unilateral process we’re conveying here.
“I wouldn’t characterise it that way. What it is, is we are obviously, the Nigerian Government has the lead in this effort, and we’re not putting together a unilateral interagency or interdisciplinary team here. We are there to assist and fill in where they have needs. So we need to assess that and determine where they have needs and integrate ours as quickly as possible.
“Obviously, we have a range of capabilities. We’ve made an offer, of course, to cooperate, and we expect that will be – (cell phone rings) – oh, that’s quite a festive ring – (laughter) – that we expect that things will be proceeding in days, not weeks. But I don’t want to get into, from the podium, an assessment of where we think things stand on that front.
Psaki gave the details of United States’ assistance.
She said: “I have a little bit of an update too, so maybe I’ll do this all in one. As we announced yesterday and the Secretary announced, we have offered assistance to the Nigerian Government. President Jonathan accepted our offer of assistance, and we’re moving swiftly to put in place a team at our Embassy in Abuja that can provide military, law enforcement, and information-sharing assistance in support of Nigeria’s efforts to find and free the girls.
“Our Embassy in Abuja is standing up an interdisciplinary team – this is what we specifically offered – to coordinate with the Nigerian Government. This morning, our ambassador met with the Nigerian national security advisor.
“AFRICOM will send a team shortly to assess Nigerian needs. Our legal attache has been in touch with Nigerian police.
“The FBI stands ready to send additional personnel to provide technical and investigatory assistance, including expertise on hostage negotiations, and USAID is working with partners on what we can do to be ready to provide victims assistance.
“So that all falls into the various categories I mentioned yesterday as a part of a, interdisciplinary team that would have representatives from different government agencies.”
The spokesperson said additional personnel will arrive in the country in the next few days.
She added: “I would categorise it as an interdisciplinary team to coordinate with Nigerian authorities. There are military – military is a part of that, and as I mentioned, in addition to, of course, AFRICOM sending a team, we have a broad range of resources within the United States Government we’ll offer.
“Well, we expect additional personnel to be on the ground arriving in the next few days. Obviously, this is in the interests of the Nigerian Government to accept every aspect of our assistance. They conveyed that they were willing to do that yesterday, and it continues to be in their interest to be as cooperative as possible.
Asked of the US response to Britain’s plans to help Nigeria, she said: “I don’t have any other specifics. Obviously, we work very closely with the British in a range of these efforts.
“And I’m certain that our interdisciplinary team that has a range of assets will be coordinating with those that they send, but some of that is still being worked out, given this was just announced yesterday.”
The State Department spokesperson debunked the allegation that the US had been slow in assisting Nigeria against Boko Haram.
She said:” I’m not going to do a ranking, but I will tell you that obviously, the fact that we designated Boko Haram as a foreign terrorist organisation last year and we’ve increased our efforts cooperating on counterterrorism in many parts of Northern Africa, not just Nigeria, tells you what you need to know about our level of concern and our focus on Boko Haram.
“Well, I think it’s important to note that we have been providing a range of assistance before the announcement yesterday. So that was specifically an interdisciplinary team related to this horrific kidnapping of the young girls in Nigeria.
“But to date, our counterterrorism assistance to Nigeria because of threats like Boko Haram has focused on information sharing and improving Nigeria’s forensics and investigative capacity.
“We’ve been working with them to strengthen their criminal justice system, increase confidence in the government by supporting its efforts to hold those responsible for violence accountable.
“We’ve provided approximately $3 million just last year in law enforcement assistance to Nigeria to help boost up their capacity.
“So we have been concerned and have provided a range of assistance, and been working closely on counterterrorism efforts long before yesterday. That was just a specific announcement as it related to these recent tragic events.”
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