From The New York Times:
By Helene Cooper | October 14, 2015
WASHINGTON — President Obama on Wednesday said he had ordered 300 troops to Cameroon to work with West African soldiers seeking to counter the Nigerian extremist group Boko Haram.
In a letter to Congress, Mr. Obama said that the troops would provide “intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance” in the region. The White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, said that the troops would be armed for their protection but that they would not engage in combat.
Mr. Obama said that an advance force of about 90 military personnel had begun deploying to Cameroon, which borders Nigeria, on Monday. Administration officials said that unarmed Predator drones would be sent with the troops, who will aid a multinational task force composed of soldiers from Cameroon, Chad, Benin, Niger and Nigeria.
The United States has been providing training and equipment to Nigerian forces as part of the effort to defeat Boko Haram. Fighters with the Islamist militant group have displaced entire villages in Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon. Amnesty International has estimated that violence by Boko Haram has left at least 17,000 people dead since 2009, when the insurgency began.
Unicef said last month that fear of attacks by the group had uprooted half a million children in the preceding five months, bringing the total number of children displaced by Boko Haram in Nigeria and neighboring countries to 1.4 million.
There’s more at the link.
Let’s be clear here: Boko Haram are a bunch of Islamist thugs, no better than Da’ish,¹ though not quite as well known, other than their mass kidnapping of 276 girls in Chibok. A rescue of 200 girls and 93 women by the Nigerian army in April of this year was not of the girls kidnapped from Chibok. The girls were suspected to have been raped, forced to convert to Islam, enslaved or forcibly married. The world responded with the twitter hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, but nothing was actually done about it.
Now, President Obama, who is busy withdrawing our military personnel from Afghanistan while the Taliban are still active and fighting, and cutting back in Syria after Vladimir Putin showed him who’s boss, is going to send 300 troops to “help” the African soldiers fighting Boko Haram, but said that our troops wouldn’t be engaged in combat themselves. Somehow, this reminds me of when Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy sent in and increased the number of American military advisors in Vietnam, the Military Assistance Advisory Group – Vietnam, or MAAG-Vietnam. They weren’t enough to help, and combat roles were slowly added. In Cameroon and Nigeria, the 300 American servicemen will become high-value targets, because Islamists just love to kill Americans wherever they can, even if shooting at American troops wouldn’t really be to their military advantage.
We could easily argue that this is a reasonable mission and a good use of American military power, if we had shown that this was doing reasonably good work elsewhere, and if we had actually finished the missions we have already undertaken in Syria and Afghanistan. President Obama has already withdrawn American troops from Iraq, and now Iraq is under siege by Da’ish. Does it really make sense to commit another too-small force to another Islamist conflict when we haven’t demonstrated the capability or the will to finish the missions in which we are already involved?
This will not end well.
¹ – It is the stated policy of my website, The First Street Journal, to refer to ad-Dawlah al-Islāmīyah fī al-‘Irāq wash-Shām, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, commonly abbreviated as ISIS or ISIL, as Da’ish, the Arabic acronym, because Da’ish hate it.