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Pentagon to Send Advisers to Nigeria’s anti-Boko Haram Troops

Oche Daniel

The Pentagon is poised to send dozens of Special Operations advisers to the front lines of Nigeria’s fight against the West African militant group Boko Haram, according to military officials, the latest deployment in conflicts with the Islamic State and its allies, the News York Times reports.

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.

Already, about 50 American commandos are advising fighters battling the Islamic State in eastern Syria. Scores more in a new, secret kill-or-capture unit are hunting Islamic State militants in Iraq. The Pentagon has offered to send American advisers with Iraqi brigades on the battlefield instead of restricting them to bases inside Iraq. Dozens of American commandos are conducting surveillance missions in Libya and counterterrorism missions in Somalia.

“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.”

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