Nigeria terminates US-led special forces training programme


The Nigerian government has ordered the US Army to stop a special forces training programme that began in April this year with the intention of setting up a new 650-member ranger battalion which would have been deployed to tackle the Boko Haram insurgency.

Although the Nigerian government and army have refused to comment on the matter, the US embassy in Abuja said in a press release that the training programme will be discontinued at the request at the request of their Nigerian counterparts.
“At the request of the Nigerian government, the United States will discontinue its training of a Nigerian Army (Ranger) battalion. The first two phases of training were conducted between April and August 2014, and had provided previously untrained civilian personnel with basic soldiering skills. Based on mutual assessment of the Nigerian Army and US trainers, a third iteration of training was agreed upon with the intent of developing the battalion into a unit with advanced infantry skills,” the embassy statement said.

The embassy said it regrets the termination of the third phase of the programme which sought to improve the operational capabilities of the Nigerian Army while infusing a culture of respect for human rights within the Nigerian army, which has previously been accused of gross human rights violations by the US State Department.
“We regret premature termination of this training, as it was to be the first in a larger planned project that would have trained additional units with the goal of helping the Nigerian Army build capacity to counter Boko Haram. The U.S. government will continue other aspects of the extensive bilateral security relationship, as well as all other assistance programmes,” reads part of the statement.

The fall-out between the two countries follows US accusations that the Nigerian Army continues to commit blatant human rights abuses which include torture, collective punishment and summary executions in its faltering campaign against Boko Haram rebels who control large swathes of territory in three states in the north and north-east of the country.

The accusations were countered by the Nigerian government which accused the US of insincerity in its publicly stated commitment to help the country fight its own war on terrorism. Nigeria said the US government’s refusal to sell lethal weapons has contributed to the army’s failure to defeat Boko Haram.

Nigeria said the army would have beaten Boko Haram a long time ago had the US agreed to sell weapons which include Apache attack helicopters and heavy ground warfare equipment.

The US has insisted that its refusal to sell lethal military hardware to the war-torn West African nation was informed by the Nigerian Army’s continuing record of human rights abuses in its counter-insurgency operations in the war-torn Kano, Borno and Adamawa states.

Since April, nearly 650 Nigerian soldiers have been undergoing US-supervised military training at an undisclosed base in the Maiduguri area.

Following the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls in the Nigerian town of Chibok, the US and Britain became the first Western nations to provide the Nigerian army and intelligence services with help in trying to locate the girls, who have not been found despite the army’s claim that it knows the location where they are being held.

The UK has also provided Nigeria with advanced intelligence and surveillance capabilities by deploying four Tornado aircraft to the country to support the search for the kidnapped girls.

Relations between the two countries deteriorated remarkably last month when the West African nation’s ambassador to Washington Adebowale Adefuye announced that his government is unhappy with the scope, nature and content of US support in the war against Boko Haram.