|Chairman Smith with |
Following June 11, 2014
Hearing on Boko Haram
(Full Testimony Below)
Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Bass, and Members of the Subcommittee, I want to thank you for inviting me here today to testify before you. I just returned from Nigeria and was in country when the international community became more aware of the horrible kidnapping of 247 girls by Boko Haram on April 14, 2014.
-- Improvement in strategic communications and review of existing strategic communications approaches, because what they have now is not working internally or externally with affected communities, particularly with the families of the missing girls.
-- I would suggest a liaison committee led by someone respected for their human rights values that engages with the families and keeps them informed. Not someone who is a press spokesperson, but someone who is an advocate, and can avoid the Malaysia flight MH370 fiasco with the families.
I lectured as a Visiting Scholar last year at Nigeria’s Defense College and talked about the must-do things the security forces needed to do to build better relations and respond more quickly to the affected communities.
I traveled through Kano last month by road on my way to visit an agricultural project I am involved with in the Northwest. There were checkpoints all along the way, anywhere from 30-to-50 kilometers apart. I did not see the ability to communicate between most checkpoints. I understand that in the Northeast this is more acute as distances between some checkpoints are greater, adding to what we already know: That information is not reacted to in timely or effective manner.
I am not excusing the poor responses and reaction to date. I am just providing recommendations from a strategic perspective of things that can be and need to be addressed right now as I would hope the assistance packages for Nigeria are including.
The Long War, The Long Conflict:
Nigeria is at the beginning of a long war or long conflict, and they have to realize this. This is no longer a localized conflict or insurgency. There is no easy fix and every attack in response to Boko Haram cannot be viewed a death knell blow to it – a long range security framework to this terrorist threats is what is needed. The security services need to regroup, re-approach, and re-address in order to begin to get off their heels on the defensive and get on an aggressive offense. This has not happened yet, and Boko Haram has not only succeeded in terrorizing 60,000 square miles of territory, but also as evident with the late April 2014 attacks, they have the ability to reach locations just 15 kilometers outside of Abuja, either with sleepers cells or with bombs getting past checkpoints.
My next comment will be an unpopular thing to hear for many, but there are people and elements in the Nigerian military that are committed and serious, but they are under-supported and need resources. This does not dilute the issues of the very real challenges for the security forces and reports in the past of corruption and failure to respond. That being said, I had several rank and file security service members come up to me on this last trip to say: “Madame you know some of us, you know we are not all bad, we do our jobs for our country. Tell people this Madame; I said I would.”
I highlight this to underscore who is going to fight this war, this conflict if it is not the Nigerian security forces, along with assistance from the international community. They are the vanguard of this conflict, so we need to help them pull up their boots straps as an institution to address any challenges they might have to get it together because if the entire security structure becomes demoralized who is going to fight this conflict.
There have already reportedly been 1-2 incidents where military units allegedly have shown their frustration by shooting at commanders’ convoys – one report happen while I was still in Nigeria.
3. Its terrorists activity or terrorism must threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national security (national defense, foreign relations, or the economic interests) of the United States.
The Abuja UN Headquarters bombing showed the: reach; capability, brutality, of Boko Haram and its use of Al-Qaeda inspired tactics; underscoring that all nationals were at risk. The UN HQ is right around the corner from the US Embassy, and when I was there I could see the building from my office window.
Despite reports out of Nigeria, I do not think that most/most of the girls have been in Nigeria for a long time. We have no idea how long the videos being shown were taken. And, these terrorists groups learn from each other, and Boko Haram is nothing but strategic. Therefore, I think it is unlikely that most (maybe not all) the girls have been put into smaller groups and taken across the borders to Chad and Cameroon, or elsewhere, or kept in smaller groups or singular in Nigeria. So, again the human intelligence factor is going to be critical to hopefully finding some of them.
I also do not want us to forget that from January-March 2014 young girls were being kidnapped, killed, terrorized and brutalized by Boko Haram. Yesterday, 20 more women were reported kidnapped near Chibook. During January-March 2014, young girls were burned to death in their dorms; others kidnapped, divided up based on their physical maturity level, and those who showed signs of puberty had their throats cut – all of these actions show that Boko Haram’s Shekerau is acting on one of his stated goals that he would: make the mothers and daughters of Nigeria suffer in revenge for the capture of some of Boko Haram’s families members by the Nigerian security forces.