Major rift between the Nigerian and American military authorities have been hampering the fight against Boko Haram militants, which have been carrying out murderous attacks on villages and towns in the North-East, the New York Times reports.
Relations between American military trainers and specialists advising the Nigerian military in the fight against Boko Haram are so strained that the Pentagon often bypasses Nigeria altogether, choosing to work instead with security officials in the neighbouring countries of Chad, Cameroon and Niger, NY Times quoted defence officials and diplomats as saying.
Following the strain in relationship, the Federal Government in December 2014 cancelled the last stage of American training of a newly-created Nigerian Army battalion and there has been no resumption of the training since then.
This was against the backdrop of the refusal of the US to sell Cobra attack helicopters and other lethal weapons to the Federal Government to combat the Boko Haram insurgency, saying the army could not maintain them.
US Secretary of State John Kerry, scheduled to travel to Nigeria on Sunday, is expected to discuss the security issue and the forthcoming elections with President Goodluck Jonathan when they meet in Lagos.
The NY Times reports that American officials are hesitant to share intelligence with the Nigerian military because they contend it has been infiltrated by Boko Haram.
It said that the US was so concerned about Boko Haram infiltration that American officials had not included raw data in intelligence they had provided Nigeria, worried that their sources would be compromised.
The officials are also said to be wary of the Nigerian military as well, citing corruption and sweeping human rights abuses by its soldiers.
“We don’t have a foundation for what I would call a good partnership right now,” said a senior military official with the US Africa Command, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak publicly on the matter.
“We want a relationship based on trust, but you have to be able to see yourself. And they’re in denial,” the official said.
Senator Ahmed Zanna said it was disappointing that the US would bypass Nigeria to work with smaller countries on terrorism.
“For a small country like Chad or Cameroon to come to assist the Americans, that is disappointing. You have a very good and reliable ally and you are running away from them,” he said, faulting the Nigerian government.
“It is terrible. I pray for a change of government,” he added.
A British diplomat noted that the frustration between the two sides (Nigeria and US) has broad implications for the fight against Boko Haram, including making it harder for other international partners who have joined the effort.
“We are trying to work closely with the French and the Americans in support of the Nigerian military and government against Boko Haram, a rift between one of our two partners and the Nigerian government is not a good thing,” the diplomat stated.
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