Obama to deploy 300 US troops to Cameroon to fight Boko Haram: Enter the Conspiracy Theorists.

15 Oct

By Nwana Tifu                                                                                                                        

When news broke-out yesterday that Obama was sending 300 troops to Cameroon to support the fight against Boko Haram, social media was set on fire by dependency theorists, patrimonials and conspiracy theorists speculating and suggesting all forms of hypotheses to decry this US move as paternalistic, as a cover being used to destabilise Cameroon where the Chinese and French were failing.It is for this reason that I did the following political analysis.

With anti-French sentiments currently running sky high in Cameroon and given that French forces in the Central African Republic have been caught on video at artisanal mines and in pedophile cases, Cameroon has showed disgust for its traditional military and economic ally by entering lucrative contracts with the Chinese and has been flirting gratuitously with the benevolence of German and Russian weapons supplies.
Located in one of the most geostrategic regions of the world, Cameroons international policy of non-confrontation has come under test from transnational criminal networks, rebel groups religious militants.These groups have imposed acts of violence on this politically docile country to an extent where it has now been roused from its long military slumber to prove itself a formidable fighting force in defense of its territorial integrity and national sovereignty.
The US has all through this time refrained from direct interference given that Cameroon is a French protege. America through its strategy of leading from behind through financing, intelligence sharing and periodic naval drills with its Africa Command to fine tune the assault and rescue capacities of the Cameroon navy to defend its geopolitical interests seriously threatened by oil bunkering and piracy in the Gulf of Guinea oil corridor.
America’s mixed failure and successes at combatting ISIL in Syria and Iraq, its drone operations against Al Shabab in Somalia, al Qaeda affiliates in Yemen, Pakistan, Libya and Afghanistan or its now endless chase after the Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony in the tropical forests spanning Central Africa to the Sudans, has left it badly in need a victory in the style granted by Seal team six in taking out the much dreaded Osama Bin Laden.
Following a string of incursions on its territory by Boko Haram militants extending their false jihad from their Nigerian heartland into the Lake Chad basin area shared by Niger, Chad, Nigeria and Cameroon, trade routes have been cut off, a humanitarian and malnutrition crisis now threatens all the countries of the region all under existential nightmares from these armed groups.

With Boko Haram resorting to hit and run tactics, it has in these past months emboldened itself and for the first time has used suicide bombers and kamikazes to implant and spread its terror campaign in Cameroon following a streak of kidnappings of foreigners and nationals.
The absence of an effective French military presence in Cameroon has enticed the US still in the good diplomatic books of Cameroon to now step in and fill the vacuum. Cameroon is part of a multinational task force formed by the sanction of the international community under the auspices of the UN and AU to eradicate Boko Haram and has been assigned the task of hosting the logistics center for the forces operations. Hence in furtherance of US national security and foreign policy interests and at the express invitation of the Cameroon government, the deployment of 300 military personnel with the part of this broad regional effort to stop the spread of Boko Haram and other violent extremist organizations in the Sahel especially was authorized by Obama through Congress on 14 October 2016 until a time when it is determined that they are no longer needed. This comes months after Cameroon hosted regional conferences and meetings on combating the geometric growth of insecurity in the region.
Now that Russia is causing confusion in the middle East over its bombardment of western sponsored rebels and ISIL militants alike, the US must avoid direct confrontation with Russia and take the fight to a new theatre.
This is strategic because sometime ago, Boko Haram pledged and swore allegiance to ISIS. The lake Chad basin area is endowed with several natural resources from oil in southern Chad exported by pipeline over Cameroon to uranium deposits in Niger, It is therefore out of question to let all these fall under the control of jihadists.After months of courting the US for weapons to fight Boko Haram without success by the Nigerian government, American worries about governance accountability and other rights abuses in Nigeria prompted them to withhold this vital support from Nigeria. At this moment, this is the best thing to pursue especially, now that the new Nigerian president Buhari seems ready and willing to cooperate as well as Cameroon, Chad, Niger, a move that contrasts to the docileness of his predecessor Goodluck Jonathan versus the discreet yet poignant resoluteness and dynamism of the Cameroon government in its fight against the Boko Haram sect.

2 Responses to “Obama to deploy 300 US troops to Cameroon to fight Boko Haram: Enter the Conspiracy Theorists.”

  1. Kingsley Sheteh October 16, 2015 at 13:40 #

    I enjoyed reading your piece! However, I found myself disagreeing with some of your conclusions before I had gone halfway through.

    First, I wonder if you can sincerely say the US can succeed in Cameroon when it has failed everywhere else? You cited instances of all the ‘wars on terror’ that the US has been chasing over the last decade and there is none of these areas that is now peaceful and terrorist free, rather if anything, they all got worse after US intervention. Take the case of Joseph Kony – Obama sent in 100 specialist troops into Uganda in search of Kony as he was rumoured to be in Central Africa, within a few months of these troops going in, Central African Republic became the nightmare it is today. While I am not in anyway indicating a US connection to the violence that wrecked the CAR, the question I cannot stop asking is: What happened to the specialist troops who were in the region to look for Kony? At least with their intelligence, they should have been the first people to know that such a calamity was going to befall the CAR and probably it could have been averted.

    Secondly, we all know that Boko Haram originated from Nigeria. While you are right to say Goodluck Jonathan was very docile, he did at a point allow US and British intelligence experts to come in. WHAT HAPPENED TO THEM? Since their arrival, the bad situation went worse…. I wonder why we Obama refused to help Nigeria but willingly decided to help Cameroon.

    Lastly, I just wish to say it is a bit unfair to say ‘Russia is causing confusion’ in the Middle East. Russia NEVER advocated for the regime change that has put Syria in this quandary; Russia was not there at the destruction of Iraq; Russia did not contribute in arming rebels whose identity they did not know. Russia’s support for Assad if anything is legitimate because they were allies before the civil war broke out. So if anything, Russia has only entered a situation created and nurtured by the US and her allies!

    Just thought I should express my take on this!

    • nwaco October 16, 2015 at 19:10 #

      Thanks for your comment Sir. Reviews and critiques to any intellectual discussion are meant to enhance reflection. I would have been worried if it was a French military action, but with the Americans, I think they have genuine geopolitical interests in the region. Considering that the US runs the oil party in Chad, the fact that they have been very active in the anti-piracy initiative in the Gulf of Guinea which is now the major oil corridor to the US away from the turbulent seas in the Gulf of Aden and Arabia.You will recall that Cameroon has severally turned down French requests to setup camp on its territory, welcoming only military attaches and drill instructors. Similarly America’s Africa Command still remains hosted in Europe because most African countries wouldn’t cede them landing ground. With uranium rich Niger also planning to link its oil pipeline to the Chad-Cameroon pipeline terminal, I believe the advantages are in the US’s great interests to secure this route or at least create a ”lebensraum” if I should use Nazi rhetoric.
      The fact that the Americans are willing to arm rebel militants elsewhere isn’t the same as in Nigeria where the rebel is the enemy, unlike in Syria where the regime has been branded as the enemy. Besides arming rebels in Syria and Iraq against Assad and ISIL is a situation where you can find coordination on both camps but given the Nigerian scenario, civilian task forces are embedded in Nigerian military operations and Boko Haram seems to procure its logistics from the Nigerian army with ease. If they were a group with a centre of command and camps visible on drone cameras or maps, I think American distrust for Nigeria’s security on military aid and supplies would be different. Once Nigeria isolates who and where B.H nerve centre is, am sure they’ll get the logistics they need. Cameroon, Niger and Chad may be receiving this support because the enemy is seen clearly as an invader hence their defense strategy is well mapped out to repel attacks and this permits intelligence coordination and cooperation from third actors. BH militants in Nigeria are in the communities and infiltrate the army too, hence the human rights abuses the Nigerian army is accused of.
      The chase for the elusive Kony has greatly diminished his operational capabilities and given that US troops are working with Ugandan and Congolese forces to track him down, I think the cooperation is beneficial to the military partners involved and American popular opinion is soothed that there’s been some action following the media and social uproar in the wake of the video calling for an end to Kony’s war.

      We saw during the cold war how superpowers played proxy wars in different theatres to avoid direct confrontation. Russia may be sowing confusion in its Syrian ally because it creates a dilemma for western powers intent on ousting Assad. Confusion here is the effect Russian intervention has on NATO and US plans or definitions of who friends and foes are. If Russia obtains a fait accompli in that adventure, it will project its power on other fronts and that’s some collateral fallout the west will have to deal with or appease in any case.
      However, one can never tell with certainty if the true motives of the US end at the economic security of its interests in the region or extend to tampering political regimes in the area but what I am sure of is that on a diplomatic point, Cameroon just became more visible in Washington and by implication upgraded its ranking on militant target lists. Either ways I welcome the extra firepower and hi-tech brought in by the Americans. It’s about time the occasional victories registered against BH turned into more concrete consolidations.

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