provide details about how the kidnapping took place. One girl said the Boko Haram men told them they were soldiers and that nothing would happen to them. Then they set fire to the storage room and started shouting "Allahu Akhbar," according to the girl, who said it was then they knew what was actually happening.Earlier this week the Nigerian government accepted an offer from the United States that involved deploying a special security team to participate in the attempted rescue of nearly 300 girls kidnapped last month by the Islamist extremists Boko Haram. The girls were taken from a government school in Chibok. About fifty girls were able to escape the kidnap attempt, and
The U.S. government first offered help this month after the story of the kidnappings broke into mainstream media in the West. Nigeria's president, Goodluck Jonathan, was initially reluctant to accept international help. On Tuesday Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, said he took Jonathan's "welcoming" of a U.S. offer as an acceptance, even though he didn't "speak for the Nigerian government." Carney stressed, too, that the Nigerian government had to make sure it was doing everything it could in the situation. Jonathan finally "accepted a definite offer of help" from the United States. The U.S. will be sending a special rescue team to aid the Nigerian government, but the State Department says it will not include any commandos or special forces, although it will include a small military team. Nevertheless, on the Today show President Obama called U.S. aid in rescuing the kidnapped girls a "short term" goal, and said the United States would also "have to deal with the broader problem of organizations like this that can cause such havoc in people's day-to-day lives."
Arguably the U.S. would not have put as much pressure on Nigeria to accept its aid were it not for the popular outrage over the horrific crime. Nigeria's president himself didn't comment on the kidnapping until this weekend, nearly three weeks later. Now he says it will mark a turning point in his country's war on terror.
And while the offer of limited U.S. help may alleviate the understandable outrage over the kidnapping, even if it can't significantly improve the chances of rescuing the girls, broader U.S. intervention in Nigeria, no matter how benevolent-minded in this particular instance, is a bad idea all around. Here's why:
It's bad for Nigeria
has been criticized for his lack of control of the broader situation. The kidnapping of nearly 300 girls may have been unprecedentedly brazen, but Boko Haram commits kidnappings, murders, and lootings on an almost daily basis. Earlier this week as many as 300 people may have been massacred by Boko Haram in a town along the border with Cameroon.Boko Haram has waged a campaign of terror in northern Nigeria for the better part of the last five years, for the entirety of Jonathan's term as president, and Jonathan
In the aftermath of the mass kidnapping, the Nigerian government first insisted it had rescued the girls before admitting it had no idea where they were. Nigeria's first lady wondered if the incident hadn't been staged in an effort to embarrass her husband.
In an open letter to Americans, Compare Afrique co-founder Jumoke Balogun writes that the popular call for U.S. involvement in the kidnapping "undermines the democratic process in Nigeria and co-opts the growing movement against the inept and kleptocratic Jonathan administration." Balogun writes that it was Nigerian outrage that forced President Jonathan to act, and that Nigerians had to hold Jonathan and the government accountable in the crisis. American emphasis on U.S. action, Balogun insists, "only expands and sustain[s] U.S. military might."
Indeed U.S. involvement has the potential not only to lower the pressure on Jonathan and the Nigerian government's responsibility to establish order in the north but at the same time to permit Jonathan to harness the "rally around the flag" effect without taking the necessary steps to form more effective policies to deal with the wider Boko Haram campaign