News / Africa

    US Using Chad as Base in Search for Nigerian Girls

    Nigerians take part in a protest demanding for the release of secondary school girls abducted from the remote village of Chibok, in Asokoro district in Abuja, Nigeria, May 13, 2014.
    Nigerians take part in a protest demanding for the release of secondary school girls abducted from the remote village of Chibok, in Asokoro district in Abuja, Nigeria, May 13, 2014.
    U.S. President Barack Obama has deployed 80 U.S. military personnel to Chad to help find more than 250 schoolgirls kidnapped by Islamist militants last month in neighboring Nigeria.

    Pentagon officials said the Air Force team will fly unmanned and unarmed aircraft over northern Nigeria and that Chad’s proximity to the search area will cut down on travel time, allowing for around-the-clock surveillance.

    GlobalSecurity.org's Tim Brown told VOA via Skype launching drones from Chad also gives the U.S. more flexibility.
     
    “They’re probably going to be used for a wider area of search, surveillance and then support if there happens to be a hostage rescue attempt or any kind of on the ground deployment of troops,” he said.
     
    The move, announced in a letter from U.S. President Barack Obama to lawmakers, is part of Washington’s ongoing effort “to locate and support the safe return” of the girls, kidnapped last month by Boko Haram, the militant Islamic sect that has been terrorizing Nigeria.
     
    But it’s an effort that’s been complicated by concerns about the Nigerian government, and weaknesses Brown said have been further exposed by Boko Haram’s actions.
     
    “They’re [Boko Haram] showing the fact that these guys [the Nigerian government] are not able to walk and chew gum at the same time and they’re corrupt, and they are,” he said.

    The new drone flights from Chad will be in addition to ongoing U.S. surveillance efforts.
     
    “We’re flying unmanned reconnaissance flights over the areas in which we think it’s possible for the girls to be. We’ve not seen anything that indicates their location at this point,” said Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby earlier this week.

    So far, the flights have produced little. “People have said it’s a needle in a haystack. It’s a needle in a jungle,” Kirby said.
     
    U.S. military officials remain convinced Boko Haram has split the girls up into smaller groups and may be moving them around, making the search even more difficult. But they said the U.S. will do all it can to find the girls short of sending in combat troops, or as they put it, putting boots on the ground.

    Jeff Seldin

    Jeff works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is national security correspondent. You can follow Jeff on Twitter at @jseldin or on Google Plus.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    May 22, 2014 10:31 AM
    Best arrangement for a country that is unsafe from within and untrusted from without. It has to be aerial views otherwise Jonathan wants foreigners to do for him what he is unable to do at home. There would have been an outright sabotage to give away the foreign soldiers to boost boko haram boast of being able to take on the US army. However, Nigerians are awaiting some early results from the most dreaded army in the world to shut up the idiots and their mentors. It's not as if these insurgents and their sponsors are unknown to the government and people in out there, but there is an absolute lack of courage to do what is right here. Otherwise how is it that no one has been queried since the abduction of the schoolgirls either for dereliction of duty or at least so that records show that government is doing something? If only to say that the government is doing something, there should have been at least a query, but to show the absolute lack of initiative in a "government that is practically non-existent" (John McCain, absolutely correct), it's business as usual. If what we suffer in Nigeria today under president Jonathan is democracy, when are Nigerians going to be free?
    In Response

    by: Xaaji Dhagax from: Somalia
    May 23, 2014 3:26 AM
    Bro, excellent comment, ...thank you!

    by: ali baba from: new york
    May 21, 2014 10:13 PM
    it is extremely difficult to find these girls. they need a help from local residence and these people are afraid from BK. in addition Chad is a big country and most of land are desert. this make the task very difficult. American and European can supply them with equipment but local army has to work hard to disable Bk

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