News / Africa

    Nigerian Military Training Cancellation Baffles US Experts

    Members of the military stand at the scene of an explosion near a petrol station in Kano, Nigeria, Nov. 15, 2014.
    Members of the military stand at the scene of an explosion near a petrol station in Kano, Nigeria, Nov. 15, 2014.

    The U.S. Embassy in Nigeria announced this week that Nigeria’s military had cancelled specialized training by American soldiers on fighting Boko Haram militants. A former U.S. ambassador says the move is puzzling, given the Nigerian military’s struggles to defeat the terrorist groups, which has taken control of parts of the country’s northeast.

    Since April, U.S. Army soldiers have been training a battalion of about 600 Nigerian troops on how to take on Islamic extremist group Boko Haram. The Americans have also provided non-lethal equipment like vehicles and uniforms.

    The acting defense and army attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, Lieutenant Colonel John Cantwell, told VOA he was not clear why the Nigerians decided to stop the training.

    “No, we did not receive any specific reason as to why they wanted to cancel the training. But their notification was in response to a request that we had sent to them requesting their intention regarding moving forward with the third phase of training,” he said.

    Boko Haram has scored numerous successes in its campaign to control and implement Sharia law across northeastern Nigeria - terrorizing the population, bombing, killing and kidnapping thousands of people, overrunning bases and seizing territory from Nigeria’s military.

    That is why former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria John Campbell said Nigeria’s move to cut the training short was baffling.

    “What on earth were the Nigerians thinking of to simply cancel a training program. And to me that is a complete mystery, because I do not see how it advances their own interests in any way,” he said.

    Nigeria military spokesman Major General Chris Olukolade declined to be interviewed, but in a text message called the cancellation a “purely strategic action,” and did not explain further.

    Nigeria’s military has battled Boko Haram for nearly five years and there have been numerous reports of soldiers being outgunned by the militants or simply running away.

    Nigerian troops played vital roles in peacekeeping missions in Liberia and Sierra Leone during those countries' wars. But Campbell said since a 1990 coup attempt against then-military ruler General Ibrahim Babangida, recent civilian administrations have preferred to keep the military weak.

    “In other words, how do you reduce the coup-making potential of the military? Well, what you do is starve it for resources. So I think that accounts, in part at least, for the transformation of the Nigerian military from being, by far, the best in Africa to one which now, if news reports are to be credited, regularly runs from firefights with Boko Haram,” he said.

    Nigeria’s ambassador to the United States recently laid the blame for the military’s failures on Washington. In a speech last month, he criticized the United States for not providing Abuja with more weapons support.

    But Campbell said U.S. hands were tied by federal law. International rights groups have repeatedly criticized Nigeria’s military for killing and torturing civilians, charges the Nigerian ambassador dismissed in his speech.

    Meanwhile, a law known as the Leahy amendment prohibits the United States from supporting militaries that are thought to be involved in human rights violations.

    “American military training of Nigerians, at this particular point in time, is inherently highly limited. It is limited by the Leahy amendment, amongst other things. Nevertheless, it made no sense to me at all that the Nigerian side, would terminate a training program,” said Campbell.

    U.S. Officials said they would continue other training with the Nigerian military.

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    by: Osaretin from: Belgium
    December 11, 2014 6:13 AM
    The US army aren't better than the NIGERIAN army, what the Nigerians need are modern weaponry and equipments. Having a weapon manufacturers companies in Nigeria is long overdue.

    by: emmanuel from: warri, delta state
    December 06, 2014 3:38 AM
    this sound real funny 2 me.if d us govt no that they re plaque with such a law,y then getting involved in such a training that wil ultimately end up 2 providing d well with all 2 combat d insulgence.
    they sould pls go!

    by: Jack from: Deutschland
    December 05, 2014 1:58 PM
    "America is limited by the Leahy amendment", but does not limit them supplying arms to rebels group and its affiliates in Syria, Iraq etc that has records of all form or atrocities. Even some arms sent to the rebels were intercepted by ISIL. All ISIL's hardware were American made earlier supplied to Iraq and now they are training and resupplying the Iraqi army. And in Nigerian case it was turned down because of human right violations by their Military. SMH! This is insulting.

    by: Frank from: Abuja
    December 05, 2014 12:17 AM
    The United States is governed by her laws, atleast this should be respected. Supplying arms to a country with a history of gross human rights violations, corruption and double standards would go against everything she(United States) represents. That's not who they are. Nigeria has alternatives with its attendant consequences vis a vis international relations, politics and diplomacy. But as a sovereign nation, she also has a right to assert her independence every now and then.

    by: ao from: FM. USA
    December 04, 2014 7:41 PM
    For once, I agree with this garbage Jonathan regime in Nigeria.... Every time Nigeria seek help from America and the US turn her down, Nigeria look like a pounded yam republic being pounded by her "friend" the USA in the eyes of the world.

    Maybe, now they can start thinking for themselves, stop devaluing the Naira by using and quoting the dollar as if it is the National currency of Nigeria and start using their brains that has for so long been suspended....

    I agree, Jonathan the foreigner has got to go for Nigeria sake

    by: Ossei Tutu III from: Cambridge, MA
    December 04, 2014 12:20 PM
    What is the essence of training soldiers and not providing them with the necessary tool to fight. Nigerian troops need weapons not training. Who is training boko haram? What is making the difference is the weapons they have. Nigeria should seek weapons elsewhere. What a crazy alliance with the US.

    by: Shaka2015 from: Canada
    December 04, 2014 11:01 AM
    I'm sure the more advanced battalion level training included how to coordinate with fast air, helos, and artillery to close, pin, and destroy BH formations. Hard to get anything out of the advanced training without the associated support weapons given US restrictions that are kinda ridiculous given the countries that they sell weapons to.

    That would be the logical answer, but I also fear that some electioneering is going on: for the PDP they think "let's look tough to the electorate as our fortunes seem to be fading, and blame the US for our failure in the NE", while thinking privately "the NE states are APC now or likely to go APC, so let them suffer." Sad on all fronts.

    by: Lure D. Lou from: Boston
    December 04, 2014 8:34 AM
    Like with most things in Nigeria if there isn't cash or material involved they won't be interested. The Nigerian military is a joke and one can see that their office corps is ready to cut and run at the slightest confrontation unless it involves innocent civilians. The U.S. is good to get out of there. In no time they will be coming back begging for help. Jonathan has got to go.

    by: Blackfire from: Lagos
    December 04, 2014 8:04 AM
    As baffling as it sounds, perhaps the move is strategic. If there is any intelligence that Nigerian Government has that the army has been infiltrated by terrorist groups, it will make sense that they are not getting training into the wrong hands.

    by: ISRAEL from: Nigeria
    December 03, 2014 12:51 PM
    The failure of the U.S to sell the much needed weapons is more baffling. A friend who has the power to help you out of grave danger but fails to do so despite several pleas is not a true friend. A friend in need is a friend indeed. The highly limited training is of no use. By God's grace, Nigeria will wipe out boko haram very soon just as Ebola was wiped out without US' assistance.
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