US/AFRICOM Commander Gen. David Rodriguez and Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield spoke during a live web-chat.
They said military operations must be backed with other strategies.
They reassured Nigeria of U.S.’s support in the fight against terrorism.
Thomas-Greenfield said: “We are very concerned about the impact of Boko Haram in Nigeria but also outside the border of Nigeria. We have had a number of conversations and discussions with the Nigeria government on how to address this issue in terms of addressing the broad development issues in north Nigeria but also on how the government responds to the threat that Boko Haram is posing in that region.
“Our suggestions to the government is that we need a broad perspective; that it is not all about security but we have to take into account the impact of the operation on civilian populations and hopefully as they go after Boko Haram that they build partnership with civilian community. We are prepared to work with government on training so that they can deal with human right concerns as they approach decisions but also we want to make sure that we help them with their capacity as well to deal with the security threat.
“We are pursuing the right strategy and what it (the attack) showed is we need to bolster that strategy. We know we must continue those efforts to go after Al-Shabab so we don’t see those (kinds of) attacks again.”
Gen. Rodriguez described the war against terrorism as a common interest, adding that an all-encompassing solution was needed.
“The solution to terrorism is long-term, broad, whole-of-government approach by all our partners as well as all of the international community because it is not solved just by military operations.
“It is about the economic development, the improvement in governance, the rule of law and law enforcement and we will work together to help build those capacities in the African nation.”
Gen. Rodriguez said the U.S. government was committed to its partnership with the African continent in spite of the existing challenges to the region’s security.
“In Central Africa, regional operations against the Lord’s resistant Army combined with the activities of civilian agencies and non-governmental organisations have reduced the threat to civilian populations.
“In East Africa, we have seen major progress in maritime security; maritime crime continues to be a major challenge, though in the Gulf of Guinea our programmes are helping to strengthen maritime security and counter illicit trafficking.
“In West Africa and other parts of the continent, we are working closely with partners to help build their capacities to counter illicit trafficking in all its forms.
“We are committed to being effective members of the team, which, includes the whole of the U.S. government; with shared interests and values, we will go forward together with our African partners,” he said.
He said the policy of training and equipping regional militaries in the fight against Al-Shabab has caused a weakened terrorist group to lash out at soft targets, such as the mall it attacked on September 21.
He said: “We think many of the successes of AMISOM over the last several years have led to this response by Al-Shabab.”
The U.S. officials touted efforts across the continent, such as programmes intended to encourage trade and
Critics, however, say the U.S. has become overly fixated on counter-terrorism activities in recent years. Such concerns are underscored by the emergence of new drone bases that have sprouted up on the continent and the Oct. 5 U.S. commando raids in Somalia and Libya.
Since it was launched in 2007, AFRICOM has steadily raised its profile as the military confronts a host of security challenges. Chief among them are the Al-Shabab on the Horn of Africa, al-Qaida affiliates across northern Africa and the Islamic militant group Boko Haram in the North.
Those groups are “loosely affiliated,” Rodriguez said. While the groups have their own agendas, they also have common aims, he said.
Gen. Rodriguez said: “I think the unifying thing is the overall ideology and the impact they want to have is to destabilise countries.
“The solution to terrorism in the region is a long-term, broad, whole-of-government approach by all of our partners,” Rodriguez said. “It is not solved just by military operations.”
With a budget crunch at the Pentagon, there has been speculation that AFRICOM could be consolidated back into U.S. European Command, which was responsible for much of the military’s efforts in Africa prior to AFRICOM.
“That’s not part of the plan right now,” Rodriguez said. “We will see how it goes in the future. Right now there are no plans to consolidate.”
Gen. Rodriguez further said US was prepared to share lessons learnt over the past seven years with Nigeria.
He also revealed that AFRICOM which was established five years ago has recorded significant progress in ensuring security in the continent.
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