President Barack Obama last Wednesday notified the Congress of his plan to deploy 300 troops to Cameroon to provide intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance operations to the militaries of Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger as they battle the Islamist Boko Haram insurgents.
In a letter released by the White House, the president said ninety personnel had already been deployed, and that they would be armed for self-defense.
A senior administration official told AFP the deployment was “part of the counter Boko Haram effort.”
Boko Haram militants have targeted Cameroon since the beginning of the year, after Cameroon and three other neighbors of Nigeria joined the battle against the militants. Since the beginning of the Boko Haram insurgency in 2009, the Nigerian government had adamantly refused outside help in its fight with Boko Haram, but the Nigerian army, hollowed out by corruption and hobbled by incompetence, was unable to push back the insurgents. Boko Haram steadily increased the area under its control, and began launching terror attacks against Nigeria’s neighbors.
In January 2015, Chad, Cameroon, Niger, and Benin informed the Nigerian government that their forces would launch operations against Boko Haram on Nigerian territory, whether or not the Nigerian government agreed. With presidential elections in the spring, President Goodluck Jonathan (he lost the May elections) could not refuse the ultimatum of Nigeria’s neighbors, and the forces of the five countries have since been coordinating their operations against the Islamists, liberating large swaths of Nigerian territory from the militants.
The BBC reports that Boko Haram, in return, has intensified its terror activities against Cameroon and Chad. Two suicide blasts on Sunday, carried out by two female suicide bombers, killed at least nine people and injured twenty-nine in far northern Cameroon.
The attack came a day after three explosions in Chad left forty-one dead.