United States (U.S.) officials yesterday said “there is no evidence that Boko Haram has received significant operational support or financing from Islamic State (IS).
An official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in Washington, said more than a year after the group’s pledge of allegiance, it has no link with IS, the News Agency of Nigeria reports.
He added that after Boko Haram killed more than two dozen soldiers in Niger last week, it claimed the attack in the name of Islamic State-West Africa Province, a title meant to tell the world that it was an arm of the Syria-based extremist group.
The official suggested that Boko Haram’s loyalty pledge had so far mostly been a branding exercise designed to boost its international jihadi credentials, attract recruits and appeal to the IS leadership for assistance.
He said the U.S. view of Boko Haram, which won global infamy for its 2014 kidnapping of 276 school girls, as a locally-focused, homegrown insurgency likely to keep the group more to the margins of the U.S. fight against Islamic State in Africa.
The official said U.S. military’s attention was largely centered on Libya, home to Islamic State’s strongest affiliate outside the Middle East and where the U.S. carried out air strikes.
He stressed that “no such direct U.S. intervention is currently being contemplated against Boko Haram.
“If there is no meaningful connection between ISIL and Boko Haram and we haven’t found one so far, then there are no grounds for U.S. military involvement in West Africa other than assistance and training,’’ he said.
Another official referred to it as an African fight and U.S. could only assist.
The official said “it is not American fight, rather, it is an African fight and we can assist them, but it’s their fight.”
A senior U.S. official said securities were closely watching for any increased threat to Americans from Boko Haram and any confirmation of media reports of deepening ties with IS.
He said “in spite of suffering a series of setbacks, Boko Haram remains lethal.
“It launched its deadliest raid in over a year last week, killing 30 soldiers and forcing 50,000 people to flee when it took over the Niger town of Bosso last week.”
The official added that the military action against ISIL in Iraq and Syria was conducted under legislation Congress passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and authourised the use of American military power against “those responsible for” those attacks.
He noted that the Obama administration had interpreted it and included Islamic State as third-generation descendent of Osama bin Laden’s core al-Qaeda group, but not Boko Haram.
He said the security intelligence report about Boko Haram acknowledged that its internal structure and leadership was imperfect.
He explained that “the U.S.has closely tracked ISIL’s leadership, finances and other activities, including its cooperation with other groups such as its branch in Libya, to which Islamic State has sent fighters, commanders and other support.
“However, multiple reports indicated that there are no evidence that Islamic State leaders, based in Syria and Iraq, have transferred significant amounts of cash or weapons or sent high-level representatives to Nigeria.”
The official said the absence of such evidence came as the administration of President Barack Obama debate how Washington and its allies could best support Nigeria and its neighbours.
“Some U.S. lawmakers have already argued that U.S. aid to the region has been too heavily weighted toward security.
The official added that the Obama administration was poised to approve the sale of 12 attack aircraft to Nigeria to assist the country in the fight against the insurgents.
The official noted that U.S. had offered to send a Special Operations mission to advise Nigerian units, and had dedicated more intelligence and surveillance assets to help African forces to fight Boko Haram.
He noted that some U.S. government experts warned that defeating it required Nigeria to boost policing, education and development in its Muslim-dominated northeast and to crack down on corruption.