A US official on Thursday put to bed rumors that the rampaging Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) had any concrete ties with Boko Haram. He went further to say that Abukar Shekau pledging allegiance to ISIS last year was a mere branding exercise aimed at boosting its international jihadi credentials.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in Washington, said the 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.”
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.”
The Senior U.S. official said securities agencies 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.”
He noted that the Obama administration had interpreted it and included Islamic State as third-generation descendant 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 neighbors.
“Some U.S. lawmakers have already argued that U.S. aid to the region has been too heavily weighted toward security.
“A recent Congressional Research Service reports that U.S. security assistance to the four African countries plagued by Boko Haram, Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon has soared to more than 400 million dollars since 2014.
“This surpasses the aid for governance, human rights, education and rebuilding infrastructure.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Chris Murphy, a Foreign Relations Committee member, said:
“Whatever its cooperation with Islamic State, Boko Haram is so deadly that Nigeria and its neighbors need U.S. help to crush. I think we have an interest in combating this group regardless of their connection to ISIS.”