Lots of Talk, but No Real Action on Boko Haram
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power left the comfort of the upper east side of New York to travel to Africa last week with a cadre of American reporters to learn more about the terrorist group Boko Haram.
Amb. Power, who spent four years at the White House’s National Security Council before moving to the UN, met with three African presidents on her trip. She also heard from victims, law enforcement officials and military leaders of the emotional horrors at the hands of the Islamic terrorists who have links to al-Qaeda and have pledged loyalty to ISIS. Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon have all seen first-hand the killings and brutality of Boko Haram and have asked the international community for more assistance to stop them.
Amb. Power, the mother of two children, talked openly about what it must be like to be the parent of one of the girls kidnapped or raped by Boko Haram. “As a mother, I can only imagine what that’s like…,” she said. She called Boko Haram a “monstrous threat”, “the likes of which I can’t even imagine”.
But in public statements delivered after meetings with Cameroonian President Paul Biya, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and Chadian President Idriss Déby, Amb. Power struggled to move from sympathy to actual action.
Amb. Power told the Chadian President she came to Africa to “learn more about the threat of Boko Haram and to advance our partnership with the countries of the Lake Chad Basin committed to defeating this monstrous group”. She later said, “in order to defeat it we need enhanced security efforts, political and governance reforms, and economic and social development.” She said multiple times throughout the trip that Boko Haram would not be defeated by military action alone.
The next day, after meeting with Nigerian President Buhari, Amb. Power was pressed by a reporter to give details as to what exactly the United States would do to help in the fight against what everyone knows to be a terrible situation. Amb. Power responded, “again, we need to have a combined, multidimensional approach that combines whatever information we have – and Boko Haram has been very good at shrouding its kidnappings – with operations on the ground…”
Reading between her pleadings on social media and her formal diplomatic speak, Amb. Power said very little as to what the United States is willing to do. In fact, by going to Africa and raising the expectations of the people suffering under years of Boko Haram’s violence, Amb. Power risks the U.S. looking even more ineffective than it already has. And she has much to worry about. Amb. Power was part of the team that decided against placing Boko Haram on the terror watch list early in the Obama Administration. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton led the State Department and the entire national security team to consider but refuse to act on the recommendation of civil society members pleading to put the Islamic group on the terror list.
This week, Amb. Power said only that the U.S. would continue to share intelligence with those countries dealing with the scourge of terrorism. Her unbridled compassion was on full display but yet she failed again to announce any new U.S. action.
After being pressed by a reporter for what exactly the U.S. will do, Amb. Power sounded frustrated with the question, “I think that, as you know, we have – from the very beginning of this crisis – moved to provide the information and intelligence that we have to the Nigerian authorities. We have in recent months been able to allocate additional information-sharing platforms, additional surveillance. The way that that works is that the information and the intelligence works best and most effectively for the people of the countries in the region when our partners are acting on the ground effectively against Boko Haram.”
In other words, Amb. Power traveled to Africa to say that the U.S. will continue to give Africans intelligence but they are on their own in stopping Boko Haram.
What is most shocking about Amb. Power raising expectations, however, is that she continues to talk of her outrage at the horrors of Boko Haram, hear first-hand accounts of the tragedy and give lofty speeches calling for something to done. But it’s like she doesn’t know that she is a Cabinet member for the President of the United States.
Amb. Power’s listening tour should have been implemented years ago, after first helping to place Boko Haram on the terror list. But the continued wringing of hands and fretting about Boko Haram’s violence, at the end of the Obama administration, only emphasizes how hope hasn’t resulted in change.