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U.S. Can Help With Nigeria’s Conflict, but Cannot Own It

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A year ago, as Boko Haram, the violent jihadist group from Nigeria’s north, expanded its operations, I argued that even though the Nigerian government had launched what seemed to be a serious military offensive, it continued to reject the sort of deep and serious reform needed to undercut support for extremism. Hence the United States should avoid offering anything other than modest, indirect help.

Since then, Nigeria’s security situation has eroded further. In the words of Navi Pillay, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Boko Haram has become “increasingly monstrous.” Approximately 500,000 Nigerians have fled the fighting between government security forces and the terrorists, some to other parts of Nigeria, others to neighboring nations. Bolstered by weapons spilling out of Libya, Boko Haram has killed 5,000 of its fellow citizens and claimed responsibility for at least two bombings in Abuja, the national capital. In early May, it kidnapped 200 girls from a boarding school in Chibok, a town in Nigeria’s Borno state. Abubakar Shekau, the movement’s leader, has threatened to sell the girls—an act so extreme that even other jihadists were appalled. ...

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