President Obama is sending 80 U.S. troops to Nigeria’s eastern neighbor, Chad, to help find 276 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Islamist terrorists.
Obama, who made the announcement in a letter Wednesday to House Speaker John Boehner, described their mission as mainly surveillance support, such as operating drones.
“These personnel will support the operation of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft for missions over northern Nigeria and the surrounding area,” the letter said.
Rep. Ed Royce, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, welcomed the troop deployment, which he said is “vital in generating actionable intelligence for the search.”
Royce urged that the troops play a role beyond surveillance. “U.S. security personnel should be in Nigeria advising and assisting those engaged in the rescue efforts,” he said. “Anything less would be insufficient in responding to the pressing threat that (terror group) Boko Haram poses to the region and U.S. interests.”
About 70 U.S. troops were sent earlier this month to the Nigerian capital, Abuja, to work with military units from the United Kingdom, France and Israel, who are also assisting in the search.
The American troops in Nigeria are limited by the Leahy Law, an amendment that denies U.S. support to foreign military units suspected of human rights abuses. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have lodged complaints that the Nigerian military has killed hundreds of civilians in its war on Boko Haram.
Boko Haram, which seized the girls in an April 14 raid and has threatened to sell them into slavery, operates in territory that spans an arc from Niger to Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon, said J. Peter Pham, director of the Africa program at the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington, D.C.
SOURCE: Oren Dorell