U.S. President Barack Obama announced on Wednesday that eighty U.S. military personnel have been deployed to Chad to assist in the search for nearly 300 school girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria on April 14. Other countries, including the United Kingdom, Japan and Israel have already joined in the search for the missing girls.
The Boko Haram terrorist group is responsible for killing thousands of innocent victims in Africa over several years. Boko Haram has carried out multiple suicide attacks on churches, seeking "to eradicate Christians" from areas in Nigeria, in addition to newspapers, government officials, and security forces.
The U.S. State Department has been criticized for refusing to place Boko Haram on the list of foreign terrorist organizations in 2011, after the high-profile suicide attack that targeted the United Nations headquarters in the Nigerian capital of Abuja in August, 2011. The refusal came despite the urging of the Justice Department, the FBI, the CIA, and over a dozen senators and congressmen.
In a brief letter from President Obama to the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tempore of the U.S. Senate, President Obama declared that under the War Powers Act’s provisions he deployed the forces without direct Congressional approval. The eighty U.S. soldiers will assist with intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft for missions over northern Nigeria and the surrounding area.
Boko Haram seeks to impose strict sharia law on northern, predominantly Muslim Nigeria, end democracy, and end all forms of constitutionalism. The United States government and the rest of the world has largely ignored what was viewed as less visible terrorist threats on the African continent.
Terrorism and global security experts have criticized the United States government for not doing enough to combat the growing threat. Africa, terrorism experts and scholars warned that Africa has long been considered a breeding ground for al-Qaeda and its affiliates.
After 9/11, countering the rise of grass-roots extremists groups has been a central part of U.S.Department of Homeland Security's strategy in the Middle East and the United States. However, Africa has been largely ignored by the global community.
In November, 2011, Congressman Patrick Meehan (R-PA) and Congressman Jackie Speier (D-CA), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, released a bi-partisan report entitled “Boko Haram- The Emerging Threat to the Homeland” detailing the rapid evolution of Nigerian based terror group Boko Haram.
In November, 2013, the United State Department of State described Boko Haram as "a Nigeria-based militant group with links to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) that is responsible for thousands of deaths in northeast and central Nigeria over the last several years including targeted killings of civilians.
U.S. Rep.Peter King, the former chair of the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security pointed out in recent weeks that two requests in 2013 by both the House and Senate Committees to the United State Department of State to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist organization were ignored.