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US May Deploy Military Advisers Against Boko Haram

Nigerian soldiers patrol outside the site of an accidental explosion of Boko Haram bombs in Yola, Nigeria, Feb. 25, 2016.
Nigerian soldiers patrol outside the site of an accidental explosion of Boko Haram bombs in Yola, Nigeria, Feb. 25, 2016.

The United States and Nigeria are in talks about sending U.S. military advisers to Nigeria's Borno State to help with the fight against Boko Haram insurgents.

A U.S. official told VOA that the talks are "ongoing," but no decision has been made about the proposed deployment.

A U.S. Defense Department official told VOA that a team went to Nigeria in the past two months and “recommended” the U.S. and Nigerian militaries restart training, but that no decision has been made.

The defense official says the interaction is a "sign that the U.S. - Nigeria relationship is going well with the new president in power." President Muhammadu Buhari took office as the nation's 15th president last May, following his defeat of former President Goodluck Jonathan.

The New York Times reported reported earlier Friday that the deployment was recommended by the top U.S. Special Operations commander for Africa, Brigadier General Donald Bolduc.

It said a U.S. assessment team suggested dozens of advisers be placed in the Borno State capital, Maiduguri, "to help Nigerian military planners carry out a more effective counterterrorism campaign." Nigerian officials have reportedly embraced the recommendations and are drawing up detailed requests.

The United States already has about 250 military personnel in Cameroon, running a drone operation to keep track of Boko Haram activity.

According to the Times, if the new deployment is approved, U.S. forces would serve only non-combat advisory roles.

Since 2009, Nigeria has struggled to stop a seemingly endless string of deadly raids and suicide attacks by the Islamist extremist group, which says it wants to create a strict Islamic state in Muslim-majority northern Nigeria.

The group has also struck repeatedly in parts of Cameroon, Niger and Chad.

Last year, the Nigerian army was able to retake most of the territory captured by Boko Haram with the help of those countries; but, the group has continued to attack markets and public places, often using female suicide bombers.

The group has killed an estimated 20,000 people overall and the violence has forced more than 2 million Nigerians from their homes.

VOA National Security Correspondent Jeff Seldin and Pentagon Correspondent Carla Babb contributed to this report