Confirmation has been released over the involvement of the United States in helping Nigeria fight the Boko Haram Islamist sect, with the Commander of the United States Africa Command, AFRICOM, Gen. Carter Ham saying that the US has been aiding Nigeria with intelligence.
Ham who disclosed this in an interview with journalists from Nigeria in Stuttgart, Germany said that the support was at the behest of Nigerian authorities, but refused to give specific details of the partnership.
“Yes, we are working with the Nigerian Army to tackle the activities of Boko Haram in the area of intelligence support. We are committed to ensuring that we partner with others to end terrorism anywhere in the work,” he said.
He however added that there has been a lot of exaggeration about the intelligence capabilities of the US, saying that in spite of its intelligence prowess, it took the Americans a long time to eliminate Osama bin Laden.
“The intelligence capability of the US, on most occasions, is usually taken out of proportions and overrated. Despite our capabilities and technology, it took us more than 10 years to get bin Laden. The exercise took a huge amount of funds dedicated for that purpose.
“So, the US intelligence is not automatic but we are working with the Nigerian authorities to curtail terrorist activities.”
He added that the US has been collaborating with the Nigerian military, whom he described as professional, in fighting the rise of maritime crimes such as piracy, illegal bunkering and oil theft among others. He also lauded the recognition given to women in the Nigerian military, and said that he believed other African countries have a lot to gain from Nigeria in terms of leadership.
He also dispelled beliefs that AFRICOM was established by the US in 2008 to monitor and manipulate the military and security agencies of African countries. He said the decision to establish the command was borne out of the realization that Africa, with a population of a billion in 54 countries which constitutes a quarter of the United Nations, and with seven of the fastest-growing economies in the world, was too important to be ignored.
“So, our intention has been to assist in building and improving the military capabilities of the African military to be able to compete favourably.
“President Barak Obama believes that African problems are better solved by Africa. We are not planning any military base in Africa because it costs to lot of money to do that. We do not want to increase spending; we want to reduce it.”
Gen. Ham became the AFRICOM commander in 2011.