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Nigeria has a long wish list of military hardware, including jet trainers, light to medium fighter jets, some tactical transports and ground attack helicopters. After the US rejected a request for Cobra attack helicopters, in December 2014 Nigeria cancelled a US military training program linked to the fight against Boko Haram militants. Nigeria agreed to buy some Russian MI-35s and MI-17s.

Operation Juniper Nimbus

Russia is now training Nigerian Special Forces. After the US rejected a request for Cobra attack helicopters, in December 2014 Nigeria cancelled a US military training program linked to the fight against Boko Haram militants. Nigeria’s perception was that the US was abandoning Nigeria in its moment of need as it was threatened by Boko Haram and not providing the kind of security and military assistance that Nigeria felt it needed. The Defense Department's addition of an unmanned aerial vehicle and 80 Air Force troops to U.S. efforts supporting Nigeria's search for over 200 missing schoolgirls has turned the mission into an air operation, Army Col. Steve Warren, the director of Pentagon Press Operations, said May 22. The UAV system and Air Force personnel were deployed not to Nigeria but to neighboring Chad under an agreement with the Chadian government, Warren said, because basing the air assets there, closer to the search area, allows the aircraft to spend more time overhead. The Nigerian government has requested such assistance and, Warren said, "This is the third system that we've put into Chad in addition to (systems that have) been providing (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) up until yesterday." The coordinated air operation is using a mix of manned and unmanned assets as the situation dictates, he added. "I don't know right now of any plans to send additional ISR assets, and all 80 Air Force personnel are not (yet) on the ground," Warren said, adding that there are no plans now for a U.S. military operation on the ground in Nigeria. It's been five weeks since members of the terrorist group Boko Haram kidnapped the girls from the Government Secondary boarding school in the town of Chibok. Boko Haram is a phrase in a language spoken in inland West Africa, according to academic linguistic texts, that translates figuratively to "Western education is a sin." The Airmen are joining 16 military personnel from U.S. Africa Command who earlier this month joined an interdisciplinary team led by the State Department at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria. On May 21, as required by the War Powers Resolution, President Barack Obama notified Congress of the deployment of Air Force personnel to Chad in a letter to the speaker of the House of Representatives and the president pro tempore of the Senate. "These personnel will support the operation of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft for missions over northern Nigeria and the surrounding area," Obama said in the letter. "The force will remain in Chad until its support in resolving the kidnapping situation is no longer required," he added. "The team in Chad is there in support of one of our ISR assets -- an unarmed, unmanned aerial vehicle that is helping support the search for the students," Pentagon spokesman Army Lt. Col. Myles B. Caggins III told American Forces Press Service. "The majority of the Air Force personnel are dedicated to the launch, recovery, and maintenance of the aircraft," Caggins added. "They have a small security detachment to round-out the team." They are not infantry troops and will not conduct ground operations, he said. "The weapons they deployed with are strictly for self-defense and local security at the airfield," Caggins added. ISR is one of the key DOD contributions to the search, he noted, and U.S. operations are around-the-clock, including time for aircraft maintenance and recovery. The missions will take place over northern Nigeria and the surrounding area, Caggins said. "Flying these aircraft from Chad significantly increases search time over potential Boko Haram camps in Nigeria and surrounding countries," the DOD spokesman said, adding, "We're thankful for cooperation from the government of Chad and our international partners for this basing agreement." On May 21, during a hearing on Boko Haram before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs Amanda J. Dory said DOD officials are taking action to help the Nigerian government find the students and address the growing threat posed by Boko Haram. Initial DOD efforts involve working with Nigerian security personnel to identify gaps and shortfalls and provide requested expertise and information, including ISR support, she told the panel. "We're also working closely with the U.K., France and other international partners in Abuja to coordinate multilateral actions," Dory said. "Our intent is to support Nigerian-led efforts to safely recover the girls," she added, "and help catalyze greater efforts to secure the population of Nigeria from the menace of Boko Haram." If sustained security is to be achieved, Dory said, the government of Nigeria must develop and implement immediate and long-term solutions to problems created by the extremist group. The Boko Haram threat has existed in its current form since 2009 but over the past several years has extended its geographic reach and increased the sophistication and lethality of its attacks, she explained. "Along with other U.S. departments and agencies, DOD has been engaging for some time with the government of Nigeria to help build its capacity to respond," the deputy assistant secretary said. Beginning in 2011, DOD used the State Department-led U.S.-Nigeria Bi-National Commission as a main forum to enhance counterinsurgency efforts and develop a civilian-centered approach to security, Dory said. DOD supports creating a counter-IED and civil military operations capacity in the Nigerian army, she added, and it has supported creating a national-level intelligence-fusion capability to promote better information-sharing among Nigerian national-security entities. In late April, DOD began working with Nigeria's newly created counterterrorism-focused ranger battalion. In addition, DOD and the State Department are working closely to enhance border security along Nigeria's borders with Chad, Niger and Cameroon, to counter the Boko Haram threat, Dory told the panel. The idea, she said, is to build border security capacity and promote better cooperation and communication among each country's security force to reduce the extremist group's operational space and safe havens. In the meantime, the search for the students in Nigeria is ongoing, Caggins added, and the Nigerians are in the lead. DOD, he said, continues to lend its unique assets and capabilities to help in the search. "We'll continue to evaluate the resources we might bring to bear in support of the effort in close consultation with the Nigerian government," Caggins said. Special Forces troops from the California Army National Guard are in Nigeria training a newly formed infantry battalion designed specifically to counter the threat from Boko Haram, an Islamic militant group believed to have killed thousands of Nigerian people and recently kidnapped hundreds of girls. "The Nigerian army's 143rd Infantry Battalion was formed from the ground up within the past few months," said one CNG Special Forces soldier, whose name has been withheld for security reasons. "This is a classic Special Forces mission — training an indigenous force in a remote area in an austere environment to face a very real threat. We know that within a short time after leaving here, it's more than likely the 143rd Infantry Battalion will be in a fight." Not only is this deployment a first-of-its-kind mission for the California Army National Guard, it is a first for the U.S. Army. U.S. troops have previously trained Nigerian battalions for United Nations peacekeeping missions, but this time the Nigerian government requested full-spectrum operational training for its new 650-man battalion. A total of 12 Cal Guard soldiers from two Los Alamitos-based Special Forces units — Special Operations Detachment–U.S. Northern Command and Company A, 5th Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) — deployed for a two-month mission, the first in a three-phase plan to assist in the establishment of the 143rd. "It is not peacekeeping," Col. John D. Ruffing, chief of U.S. Army Africa's Security Cooperation Division, said about the 143rd's mission. "It is every bit of what we call ‘decisive action,' meaning those soldiers will go in harm's way to conduct counterinsurgency operation in their country to defeat a known threat, and it's all purely funded by the Nigerians." Among the skills being taught by the Cal Guard's Special Forces units are fundamentals of patrolling, small-unit tactics, movement to contact, night operations and ambush tactics. The Nigerian soldiers will also receive instruction on human rights, basic soldiering skills, advanced infantry skills, land navigation, marksmanship and troop-leading procedures. "We want these soldiers to be able to take the fight to the enemy in restricted terrain and really impact the threat within their borders so that they can then provide more resources to peacekeeping operations, which Nigeria has extensive experience with," the CNG's team leader said. In addition to training the 143rd soldiers, the Special Forces troops are continuously developing Nigerian cadre as primary instructors, so they can train other Nigerian forces after the CNG troops depart. "This is a huge benefit — that we're able to [improve] the Nigerian capacity to help with training themselves," said Lt. Col. Vinnie Garbarino, U.S. Army Africa's (USARAF) international military engagements officer. "I think this is going to be the first of a couple of battalion training efforts that the Nigerians are going to undertake, so training their own trainers is huge because it offsets the student-to-instructor ratio. Our 12 guys don't go very far; when you add 40 Nigerian cadre members to the equation, they are doing some heavy lifting." The information exchange, however, is not a one-way street, one Cal Guard soldier said. "We're trying to help them, but also to learn from them," he said. "The U.S. answer may not work perfectly in Africa, and maybe the Nigerian techniques wouldn't be applicable in Afghanistan or Iraq. We're sharing capabilities, and hopefully the Rangers of the 143rd Infantry Battalion will be in a position to share these skills with other units in the Nigerian army." Maj. Liam Connor, U.S. Army Africa's West Africa Desk officer, said the U.S. Army worked for several months to come up with a program of instruction that stayed within a limited budget. The training was specifically requested by Nigerian forces to take them out of a peacekeeping mission-set and counter Boko Haram, he said. "We hope to … instill a controlled, aggressive spirit necessary to increase their training level and capability to close with and eliminate Boko Haram," a Cal Guard Soldier said. "The current threats from Boko Haram warrant an increased capability that currently does not fully exist within Nigerian forces." The Cal Guard training mission is only one piece of a greater effort to achieve a shared vision in the region. "We're helping Nigeria and its neighbors to develop a Boko Haram strategy," said Maj. Albert Conley III, a USARAF spokesman. "The key is [Nigeria and its neighbors] have to create the strategy. It can't be a U.S.-directed strategy, so we are helping them facilitate the creation of strategy, development of a strategy, and then once they do that, helping modify that strategy to make sure it's hitting the end states everyone wants."




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