By Andrew E. Harrod:
About 90 Congressional staffers filled a Dirksen Senate Office Building hearing room last May 28 for “Boko Haram: Beyond #BringBackOurGirls,” a Foreign Policy Initiative briefing on Nigeria’s Muslim terrorist group. While the audience was “telling how much interest has grown in this group” for panelist Dr. J. Peter Pham of the Atlantic Council, the briefing indicated several complicated issues in the struggle against Boko Haram.
A rescue operation for these girls “just makes no sense,” the Atlantic Council’s Rudolph Atallah specifically commented, as their scattering makes success “next to impossible.” Previous rescue operations in Nigeria and the region had ended in hostage deaths, concurred Blanchard, perhaps necessitating negotiations for the girls’ release. These failures were part of wider panelist concerns with respect to Nigerian security forces, often ill-equipped and counterproductively harsh in their tactics. Nigeria’s army actually “is not a poor and starving military,” Blanchard argued, yet corruption often consumed needed resources. Nigeria had purchased nine Israeli Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), for example, but they currently do not operate.The April 14 Boko Haram kidnapping of 276 schoolgirlsin Chibok, Borno state, is “really only a drop in the bucket” of Boko Haram’s bloody record, although Boko Haram’s recent international notoriety largely derived from this event, Pham observed. Boko Haram had caused 4-6,000 deaths, noted Laureen Ploch Blanchardfrom the Congressional Research Service (CRS). The United Nations (UN) estimated six million people affected by Boko Haram’s violence in an “incredibly important country” with Africa’s largest economy and population (about 180 million). Alone Nigeria’s Muslim population was Africa’s largest Muslim community and one of the largest in the world, observed Pham.
Divergence, however, marked panelist discussions of Boko Haram’s character. Boko Haram is a “branch of Al Qaeda that is in Africa,” Kansas Representative Mike Pompeo flatly declared in introducing the panel. Boko Haram’s “evil barbarians” who kidnapped the Chibok girls were part of a “threat of global jihadists” facing America, recently manifested by a foiled 2013 bomb plot in Wichita close to Pompeo’s home. A “larger, more diverse” Al Qaeda (AQ) in places like Nigeria and Syria is threatening the United States “at a full gallop,” making Nigeria an “enormous American national security interest.” AQ has indeed “metastasized,” as President Barack Obama often says, yet contradicting Obama, AQ has become more dangerous, not less.
“Marked by economic deprivation,” by contrast, was Pham’s description for Boko Haram’s origins in northeastern Nigeria, raising thereby past controversies concerning whether material need or Muslim zeal was a greater motivation for Boko Haram. While a “great bit of economic angst” resulted for this region from, for example, lost textile jobs, the area’s “ethnically marginalized” Kanuri tribe also had political grievances against a negligent federal government. “Boko Haram 2.0” emerging in 2009 and “increasingly virulent,” though, has a “more standard Salafist line” while Boko Haram’s current leader Abubakar Shekau has made video appearances in “classic Al Qaeda fashion.”
Read more at Religious Freedom Coalition
- Boko Haram Kills 200 Villagers in a Week, 4 Girls Escape Captivity (clarionproject.org)
Needed: A Factual Look at Muslims Today — Including Boko Haram (clarionproject.org)