U.S. & UK Show Up In Nigeria To Find Missing Schoolgirls — Almost A Month Late
On Friday, experts from the United States and United Kingdom finally arrived in Nigeria to help in the efforts to find the missing schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram. The group of military advisers, negotiators, and counsellors will join the country's government forces in a mission to return the more than 200 girls to their families. The kidnappings have sparked worldwide protests and encouraged global involvement, as well as criticisms that Nigeria has been slow to react. Will international assistance finally be the key to finding them?
"Our inter-agency team is hitting the ground in Nigeria now and they are going to be working in concert with President Goodluck Jonathan's government to do everything that we possibly can to return these girls to their families and their communities," noted U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
He added that Americans will help in doing "everything possible to counter the menace of Boko Haram,” according to NBC. Experts will establish a coordination cell to provide information on hostage negotiation, intelligence and further investigation. A British team from the Department for International Development as well as other agencies will work on strategy and long-term efforts against the Islamic militant group.
The extremist rebels have held the girls captive since April 18, drawing the ire of the international community. Violence has escalated, with the group suspected of killing approximately 300 people in a village strike. And even Al Qaeda criticized Boko Haram — that's when you know you're going a little too far.
Nigeria faced backlash from protesters speaking out against what they deem an ineffective effort to combat the militant group. On Thursday, President Jonathan said he hoped the international assistance would mark the "the beginning of the end of terror" in Nigeria.
So what can the U.S. do, if anything, and why did action take so long? Retired Gen. Carter Ham, who led the U.S. African Command, tells NPR there's still a chance to help. It'll be a difficult challenge, he admits, but U.S. agencies like the FBI could help the Nigerian government with hostage care once the girls are found — but they need to be located first.
Kerry said help has been offered before, but it was up to Nigeria to accept assistance. British leaders echoed the same sentiment, with officials saying they were in regular contact with the country.
"We have been in touch from day one, and our embassy has been engaged and we have been engaged," Kerry said in a briefing. "But the government had its own set of strategies, if you will, in the beginning. And you can offer and talk, but you can't do if a government has its own sense of how it's proceeding."
Whether or not the arrival of U.S. and U.K forces will be a game-changer is yet to be determined, but it's clear that Nigeria needs all the help they can get. “The entire world should not only be condemning this outrage, but should be doing everything possible to help Nigeria in the days ahead,” Kerry added.