Macleans quotes Africa Center Director J. Peter Pham on why the United States has been hesistant in going after the terrorist organization Boko Haram which abducted more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls last month:

There is also evidence linking Boko Haram with other international Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda’s North African affiliate, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). During last year’s French offensive against Islamists in northern Mali, for example, at least two Boko Haram training centres were found in areas in which AQIM and Ansar Dine, another Islamist insurgent group, were operating, says J. Peter Pham, director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center.


Already, says Pham, the Boko Haram insurgency is having a “corrosive effect” on Nigeria. Soldiers sent to confront Boko Haram have revolted over lack of pay and poor leadership. Presidential elections are scheduled for next February. If something resembling fair voting cannot be held in the north because of a lack of security, the resulting government—likely led by Goodluck Jonathan again—will lack legitimacy. Zenn, the Jamestown analyst, believes Nigeria is somewhat on the verge of collapse, and that if it does collapse, “the whole West African order—boundaries, politics, security—could be overthrown.”


This touches on another reason why the West has not confronted Boko Haram in force. Nigeria has avoided asking for help—in part because doing so would undermine the image it wishes to project of itself as a regional superpower. “Nigeria has long resisted any internationalizing of this issue,” says Pham. “We’re not dealing with a weak country that will gratefully accept any assistance it can get.”

In fact, says Pham, American intelligence analysts that have been sent to Nigeria in response to the schoolgirls’ abduction will be working without the sort of foundational knowledge that should have been established already had Nigeria allowed America a greater intelligence presence in the country prior to the schoolgirls’ abduction. “The United States is coming late to the game because of Nigeria’s prickly sensibilities,” he says.

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