President Obama informed Congress today that he is sending 80 U.S. armed forces personnel to Chad. They will not be there in any combat capacity but will be aiding in the search for over 200 girls that the Islamist group Boko Haram abducted from a school in the northeastern Nigerian town of Chibok last month.
Last week, the U.S. sent a team of special operations forces to train and advise their Nigerian counterparts, in a move that was not officially connected to the ongoing search for the girls. In contrast, Obama’s letter to Congress, which is reproduced below, directly cites the Chibok abductions as the reason for the troops’ deployment.
This is reminiscent of the involvement of U.S. special operations forces in the hunt for the Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony. Although there are several hundred U.S. personnel involved in the search, they are prohibited from engaging with Kony’s forces unless they are fired on first.
The fact that the soldiers are deploying to Chad could also be significant. Chad joined in the fight against Islamist extremists in neighbouring Mali despite being one of the world’s poorest countries, and is a member of the United Nations Security Council. The deployment of U.S. troops to a regional stability-minded Nigerian neighbour, along with talk of combined security efforts among West African countries, indicates that the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram is increasingly viewed as a regional as opposed to specifically-Nigerian threat.
Obama’s letter to Congress is below:
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