The United States government has finalized plans to send soldiers to Nigeria as part of a training and advisory mission.
The soldiers, according to the New York Times, will have a purely non-combatant role, and serve to provide with training and advise for Nigerian troops fighting the deadly Islamic extremist sect.
Their deployment would push American troops hundreds of miles closer to the battle that Nigerian forces are waging against an insurgency that has killed thousands of civilians in the country’s northeast as well as in neighboring Niger, Chad and Cameroon. By some measures, Boko Haram is the world’s deadliest terrorist group.
The deployment is a main recommendation of a recent confidential assessment by the top United States Special Operations commander for Africa, Brig. Gen. Donald C. Bolduc. If it is approved, as expected, by the Defense and State Departments, the Americans would serve only in noncombat advisory roles, military officials said.
Even as President Obama has drawn down the large American armies sent to Iraq and Afghanistan, he has relied heavily on Special Operations forces to train and advise local troops fighting the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, and to carry out clandestine counterterrorism missions.
“Rather than entangle U.S. combat forces on the ground, help build the capacity of regional forces to tackle their countries’ security challenges,” said Jennifer G. Cooke, Africa director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, who visited Nigeria last month. “Training and advising and perhaps imparting the lessons we learned the hard way is a good thing.”