Don't Let Up Against Terrorists and Boko Haram
July 24, 2014
Terrorist group Boko Haram made headlines last April when its members kidnapped 276 female students from a government school in Northern Nigeria. The Islamic Jihadist and terrorist organization claimed the abduction, promising to enslave the missing girls.
It was not the first time that Boko Haram hit the Northern parts of Nigeria and Cameroon.
In fact, the group started its criminal operations on September 7, 2010, when 50 gunmen broke into a prison in the Nigerian city of Bauchi and freed 721 prisoners that later became terrorists.
And despite 31 terrorist attacks that killed or injured more than 18,000 people between 2010 and 2013, the Obama Administration remained skeptical about adding Boko Haram to the official list of terrorist organizations.
Even after Boko Haram bombed the U.N. headquarters in Abuja in 2011, the State Department still refused to place Boko Haram on the list of foreign terrorist organizations. This, despite pressure from some Justice Department officials (Lisa Monaco), who wrote to the State Department to urge a designation of Boko Haram as a terrorist organization. This designation would have enabled Washington to work faster on isolating Boko Haram and its affiliates.
It is only last November that the State Department finally decided to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist organization. But precious momentum had already been lost, and Boko Haram had already been allowed to strengthen significantly.
Washington must now avoid wasting even more time in the fight against terror. This White House and Congress should work together to design a strategy that will eradicate the Boko Haram threat in Africa. Failure to do so could yield significant consequences for America’s National Security interests.
As Americans, we know more than any other nation, what Evil can do through terrorism. We have learned by experience that terrorist threats that are given the opportunity to harvest overseas usually grow with the goal to hit us, right here at home.
That’s why we cannot let up.
That’s why Congress and the President cannot let up.
Strong and reliable leaders like Chris Smith, Karen Bass, Tom Udall, Tom Marino or Chris Coons should be allowed to lead Congress, and work with the President to design a clear strategy for success in Africa.
However, any strategy from Congress or the White House, should necessarily be comprehensive, and involve Nigeria and Cameroon, two countries at the forefront of the fight against terrorism in Africa.
In Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan has re-organized effectively to address the threat of Boko Haram with limited means. In Cameroon, President Paul Biya has proven a resilient crusader against terrorism.
President Obama and Congress should design an effective strategy around these two key U.S. Allies in the region. The reasons are simple: these leaders fight Boko Haram on a daily basis. They have the intelligence needed to track the group down. They have skin in the game and they can be trusted.
Plus, Boko Haram is constantly moving between Nigeria and Cameroon. That’s how they operate. Turning on the hit on Boko Haram in Nigeria without doing the same in Cameroon will simply allow terrorists to relocate, like they did in Pakistan when the U.S. turned on the pressure in Afghanistan. The situation is similar and the U.S. must learn from its mistakes.
But before anything, Congress members should start by directly meeting with officials from Nigeria and Cameroon to understand this threat of a new kind, in a region we don’t always understand. That’s the first step.
About the author
Ben Modo is the Managing Director of Prime Potomac Group, a government relations group that focuses on building and protecting relations between the U.S. and Africa. He is also Founder and President of the American Africa Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Africa lobbying group affiliated with Prime Potomac Group. The group seeks to encourage a new framework in the U.S.-Africa relationship.
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