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Nigeria Struggling With Threats In Lake Chad, Northeast, Says U.S. AFRICOM Commander

U.S. Africa Command commander, Gen. Stephen Townsend, briefed the Senate Armed Services Committee on Boko Haram and ISWAP threat in the Lake Chad Basin.

Stephen Townsend, United States top general in charge of Africa Command (AFRICOM), told members of the U.S. Senate on Thursday, that Nigeria was struggling with threats in Lake Chad and Northeast. 

“I think what we are seeing in particular with Nigeria, is they are struggling with the threat in Lake Chad basin and Northeast,”  said Gen. Stephen Townsend, during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. 

The Army General was testifying alongside U.S. Central Command commander, U.S. Marine Corps, General Frank McKenzie, Jr.before the Senate Armed Services Committee.  

The U.S AFRICOM is responsible for all Department of Defense (DOD) operations, exercises, and security cooperation on the African continent, its island nations, and surrounding waters.

In response to a question on the risk posed by violent extremist groups in the Lake Chad Basin to the United States,  Townsend said his “assessment is that although they cause tremendous problems for the countries in the Lake Chad Basin, neither Boko Haram nor ISIS-West Africa today, pose a significant threat to U.S. interest.”

On how the U.S. can support countries in the region, not just militarily, he said a whole of government approach in the region would help.   

“We have that now, to some degree we can make that more robust,” Townsend said, adding that there is a partnership between the Department of State and Defence to provide security assistance to countries in the region.

“We do that on a bilateral basis directly with those countries, there is the multinational joint task force (MNJTF) that operates in the Lake Chad Basin region, it will not be hard to increase some of our efforts there.”

The Senate hearing also included questions on the risk of U.S  repositioning in Somalia as well as Chinese and Russian influence in Africa.

On Tuesday, April 20,  Stephen Townsend, discussed future threats and opportunities in Africa as well as the importance of U.S. engagement, during testimony before the House Armed Services Committee as part of the command’s annual Posture Statement to Congress.

He also discussed the command’s approach to addressing the threat of violent extremist organisations such as ISIS, Al Qaeda, and Al Shabaab. 

In Feb., the AFRICOM commander wrapped up a three-day West Africa visit with a stop in Nigeria, where he met with Ibrahim Gambari, the Nigerian President’s Chief of Staff, and Babagan Monguno, National Security Adviser, to discuss regional security issues and to express the command’s gratitude for the assistance provided during a hostage rescue operation last year.

“When we asked for their help, the Nigerian government answered the call. Our hostage recovery mission in October would have been impossible without their support,” Townsend said. 

“They quickly provided assistance that helped the U.S. military to save an American life. That is a strong example of our partnership with Nigeria.”

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Murtala Abdullahi

Abdullahi Murtala is a researcher and reporter. His expertise is in conflict reporting, climate and environmental justice, and charting the security trends in Nigeria and the Lake Chad region. He founded the Goro Initiative and contributes to dialogues, publications and think-tanks that report on climate change and human security. He tweets via @murtalaibin

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