U.S. officials unanimously agree that more needs to be done to aid Nigeria in finding the more 200 schoolgirls who were kidnapped in April. What they can’t get a consensus on, however, is how to do so without sending troops on the ground.
With the hashtag social media campaign #BringBackOurGirls bringing international attention to the terrorist abduction, President Barack Obama sent in an intelligence, logistics and communications team that includes 16 military personnel. The U.S. is also sharing commercial satellite imagery with Nigerians and is flying manned aircraft over Nigeria with the government’s permission for intelligence purposes.
Officials, however, say they have no intentions on sending soldiers to Nigeria, despite others pointing out that it’s the best way for effective results. Retired General Chuck Wald, former deputy commander of the U.S. European Command, said that America would need to send “several hundred” Special Operations troops “to get it done right,” according to TIME.
However, senators Dianne Feinstein and Saxby Chambliss, who lead the U.S. Intelligence Committee, said that they would support sending special forces under certain conditions. Feinstein said she would do so only if Nigeria requests it, while Chambliss says he would if it’s done with other allies.
Additionally, reports indicate that locating the missing girls will be more difficult considering the terrorist group, Boko Haram, has reportedly split off the schoolgirls into smaller groups, suggesting that it may take awhile before they are found and returned. Some also point to the Nigerian military’s weakness as a red flag. Human rights organization Amnesty International says they declined to provide assistance to the schoolgirls despite at least four hours of advanced warning “due to poor resources and a reported fear of engaging.”
Still, even with U.S. special forces involvement, it may not be enough to bring back the girls. As TIME reports, the Pentagon sent 100 troops to Africa in 2011 to help their troops search for Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony, which turned out to be unsuccessful.
Sen. Chambliss believes the current intelligence assistance to Nigeria is “not good enough” and “not even a token,” and though he has confidence in the American military, he is skeptical that U.S. special forces could find a safe return for the abducted girls.
“Right now we just don’t the answer to that question,” Chambliss said in an interview. “We know it’s going to be difficult. The question is how do we do it…but I think we certainly have the capability of doing it.”