Chibok Girls: Nigerian Govt. Rejects U.S Offer To Use Drones
Though U.S. officials have offered to do everything possible to aid in the
search for more than 200 kidnapped schoolgirls, the Nigerian government
has yet to accept drone flights over its restive northeast corner, U.S.
The reason why the Nigerian government has not requested the remotely
piloted U.S. surveillance drones is not clear.
Frustration over the inaction was evident at a Pentagon briefing Friday.
“There are no active discussions” with the Nigerian government about the
use of “unmanned aerial surveillance,” or drones, said Rear Adm. John
In fact, Kirby said, the relatively small “coordination team” of U.S.
military, law enforcement FBI and intelligence officials is the only offer
of assistance that the Nigerian government has accepted. Kirby declined to
say what else may have been offered and rejected by the Nigerians, saying
only, “We urge them (Nigerians) to use all resources at their disposal.”
Privately, a U.S. official familiar with U.S. intelligence options in the
region, confirmed Kirby's statement to NBC News that no drones have flown
in pursuit of the missing girls. “No, not yet,” said the official ,
speaking on condition of anonymity. “No permission, no flights.”
The U.S. would have to get permission as well from neighboring countries
– Cameroon, Chad and possibly Congo – because the mission would also
almost certainly involve overflights there, where Boko Haram troops also
are active. “They cross those borders daily,” said one U.S. intelligence
Even without drones, experts and U.S. officials say, Washington has other
hi-tech spy technology that could help in the search.
Dr. Jeffrey T. Richelson, author of the forthcoming “U.S. Intelligence
Community,” a compendium of Washington's intelligence capabilities, said
the drone is the ideal platform for tracking Boko Haram and possibly
locating the girls, who were abducted on April 14 from a state-run
boarding school in Chibok.
“Drones have both the loitering capability and the stealth capability for
a mission like this,” said Richelson. “You can keep a location in constant
view rather than intermittent surveillance that you get with satellites.”
The U.S. has an agreement with the government of neighboring Niger to fly
drones out of Niamey airport — less than 1,000 miles west of the
kidnapping site. But intelligence sources say it's not clear whether any
drones are currently at the airport. One official noted it would take some
time to set up support operations in any case.
U.S. officials confirm that Predator drones have flown out of Niamey
previously for missions to track members of Al Qaeda in the Islamic
Maghreb, a terrorist group based in nearby Mali.
The U.S. also could fly longer-range Global Hawks or MQ-9s on missions
from as far away as the United Arab Emirates or England.