Foreign Affairs

U.S. troops dispatched to aid hunt for kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls

U.S. troops dispatched to aid hunt for kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls

I guess that whole #BringBackOurGirls hashtag thing didn’t work out, huh?  CNN reports that the Administration has decided to switch from moral preening and selfies to hard men with guns in the quest to rescue 200 kidnapped Nigerian girls from enslavement by a gang of Islamist thugs called Boko Haram.

Except the hard men probably won’t be using their guns, they’ll be conducting an unlikely search from the air, and they’ll be looking in the wrong country, because that’s way easier than looking for kidnapped Nigerian girls in Nigeria:

The United States deployed 80 members of its armed forces to Chad to help in the search for the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls, the White House said Wednesday.

“These personnel will support the operation of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft for missions over northern Nigeria and the surrounding area,” it said in a letter.

“The force will remain in Chad until its support in resolving the kidnapping situation is no longer required.”

President Barack Obama informed the House speaker and the president of the Senate of the move.

The forces will be involved in maintaining aircraft and analyzing data, but because they are armed, the President is required by law to inform the speaker of the House, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said.

“These are not combat infantry troops that we put into Chad,” Kirby told CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper” on Wednesday. “These are folks that are there to support the reconnaissance mission.”

The reconnaissance mission in Chad, that is.  Where no one has any serious reason to believe the abducted girls are.  CNN asked Read Admiral Kirby about that little detail:

“Just geographically, Chad’s a great location to do this from,” Kirby said, adding that the United States has a good relationship with its government.

Reconnaissance flights will be searching an area roughly the size of West Virginia, he said, that includes parts of Nigeria and other countries.

The deployment is not based on any new intelligence leads, a senior administration official said.

“The truth is, we don’t know exactly where they are,” Kirby said. “We still believe that they’ve broken up into small groups and dispersed.”

Don’t get me wrong – I really hope this works out, and at least some of the girls are rescued.  At least we’re not pretending the under-equipped, badly managed armed forces of Nigeria are going to get the job done, if we just snap a few pictures of ourselves pouting and holding up slogans on placards.  If you’re ever in this sort of peril, you want the United States military on the case.

But basically, this mission boils down to forty men operating a single Predator drone, with the other forty prudently assigned to guard them.  They’ll be flying that drone over an area the size of West Virginia no one has any particular reason to think is a good hunting ground, searching by air for small, dispersed groups of young women who were last photographed looking like this, after their forced conversion from Christianity to Islam:

nigerian_girls_hijab

Again, I really hope this works, and I pray for the safety of every American soldier dispatched on the mission, but it has the feel of being a gesture more than a solid strategy.  So help me, it reminds me of the old joke about a guy looking for his car keys near a streetlamp where he knows he didn’t drop them, because the light is better there.

When the Boko Haram savages last checked in with American media, a member of the group told CBS News they’d be held prisoner until the Nigerian government released captive members of the group as ransom.  He also claimed their conversion to Islam was entirely voluntary, after some exceptionally effective preaching from their gun-toting, murderous captors:

He told CBS News he’d seen the girls three weeks ago, and they were being well cared for.

“Some of them will complain of headache; we have medicine,” he said, when asked if any of the girls were sick. “We have everything in the place where we keep them.”

Asked if any had been sold into marriage, he replied, “We do not marry them.”

He said the girls had converted to Islam — willingly, he claimed. As a result, they’d been spared being sold into slavery, as the group’s leader had threatened.

“We didn’t make them convert to Islam by force, just by preaching, you understand,” he said.

When pressed on whether abducting the girls and forcing them to convert to Islam is the same as forcing them, he said, “As I tell you, we are not forcing anyone to accept Islam. We are just preaching to them.”

He said the girls would be held captive until the Nigerian government released Boko Haram fighters from prison.

“If Allah wish, nothing will happen to them,” he said. “But we ask the government if they don’t release our brothers, we are not going to release them.”

Asked whether the girls will be killed if the government does not release the prisoners, he replied, “I will not tell you what we are going to do.”

If this Boko Haram fighter’s account is accurate, it doesn’t sound like the girls have bee dispersed into Chad.  He also claimed more abductions were on tap, and claimed Boko Haram has “networks around the world, including in America.”  Sounds like we’re gonna need a bigger hashtag.

 

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