The United States has deployed 80 troops to Chad to augment efforts to find the Nigerian schoolgirls recently taken hostage, the White House announced Wednesday, a significant escalation of Washington’s contribution to a crisis that has created global consternation.
The force, made up largely of Air Force personnel, will conduct surveillance flights and operate drone aircraft but will not participate in ground searches, according to U.S. military officials.
It looks like a fairly minor goodwill gesture, and of course all decent human beings want to see the girls returned safely home.
But there’s more to it than that.
Even this minimal US presence in Chad and Nigeria benefits Boko Haram and damages both Nigeria and the US (as well as possibly fomenting rebellion in Chad).
It positions Boko Haram to transition from a self-funded domestic Nigerian rebel outfit to an international cause celebre, attracting funds, weapons and recruits from Islamists and other anti-American organizations around the world. Even if this group of abducted girls is found, the intervention increases the likelihood (and the likely tempo and intensity) of future kidnappings and murders and invites expansion of the conflict into other theaters of operation.
As the Center for a Stateless Society’s J. Edward Carp points out, the Nigerian people are learning how to deal with Boko Haram themselves. As heartbreaking as it is to stand aside and leave such a heavy burden to them, it’s really the only way to solve, rather than exacerbate, the problem.