US legislator: Nigeria's military needs training, not arms

AP News
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Posted: Aug 04, 2015 3:01 PM

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — The United States is ready to provide military training to help Nigeria's battle against Islamic extremists, the leader of a U.S. Congressional delegation said here.

Nigeria's military is not outgunned by Boko Haram and needs training, not arms, to defeat the insurgents blamed for the deaths of thousands in three countries, said Rep. Darrell Issa.

Issa spoke after his four-person bipartisan delegation met with President Muhammadu Buhari and military service chiefs.

Issa's statement contradicts Buhari who asserted, after meeting President Barack Obama at the White House last month, that the United States is aiding Boko Haram by refusing to sell attack helicopters to Nigeria.

The U.S. Leahy Law prohibits all aid to specific military units which have been found to violate human rights. In the case of Nigeria, U.S. officials have said that some units have been vetted and deemed eligible for assistance, and others have not. Amnesty International has accused Nigeria of killing without due process an estimated 8,000 people suspected of involvement with Boko Haram.

"The number one thing we bring is professional training" to help the Nigerian forces fight Boko Haram and to advise them how to treat insurgents and civilians captured in the war zone, said Issa, a Republican from California and member of the House Subcommittee on Terrorism. Nigeria's military "doesn't lack basic firearms ... it lacks training" in military strategy and in international and humanitarian laws.

"This is a military that was allowed to fall into disrepair during the previous administration. Morale is low when training is low," said Issa.

He said Obama's pledge to give whatever training is needed signals "a new day" in U.S.-Nigeria relations. Buhari has pledged to annihilate Boko Haram and fight Nigeria's serious corruption problem.

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This story has been corrected to say the U.S. Leahy Law prohibits all aid to specific military units, not the sale of high-tech weapons to entire countries whose militaries are accused of gross human rights abuses.