Nigerian president seeks more US help to fight Boko Haram: WSJ

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan (above) is appealing to the United States for greater military assistance in the fight against Boko Haram Islamists, according to the Wall Street Journal. -- PHOTO: EPA
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan (above) is appealing to the United States for greater military assistance in the fight against Boko Haram Islamists, according to the Wall Street Journal. -- PHOTO: EPA

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan is appealing to the United States for greater military assistance in the fight against Boko Haram Islamists, according to the Wall Street Journal.

"Are they not fighting ISIS? Why can't they come to Nigeria?" Jonathan told the newspaper in an interview published Friday, referring to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group.

"They are our friends. If Nigeria has a problem, then I expect the US to come and assist us."

Jonathan said Boko Haram militants, who have taken over swathes of territory in northeastern Nigeria, have received "training and funds" from the Islamic State militants, based in Iraq and Syria.

Jonathan said he has requested combat soldiers and military advisers from Washington since early 2014, according to the newspaper.

But Pentagon spokesman Rear-Admiral John Kirby said there are no plans to send US troops to Nigeria.

"I can tell you that there are no plans as I speak here to send unilaterally, to send or to add US troops into Nigeria. There are no US troops operating in Nigeria," he told reporters.

Kirby said the US was in the early phases of helping establish a multi-national task force of African nations to help Nigeria defeat Boko Haram.

"These discussions are really just now starting," Kirby said.

STRAINED RELATIONS

US involvement in Nigeria has been fraught, with Washington accusing Nigeria's military of being in denial about the threat posed by Boko Haram, which has captured dozens of towns in the last six months.

The United States has also been critical of the Nigerian government's slow response to the mass abduction of more than 200 girls from the town of Chibok in April last year.

US drones were deployed and the Pentagon dispatched intelligence and surveillance specialists in the hope of finding the kidnapped teenagers still being held but to no avail.

But Nigeria's ambassador to Washington has accused the United States of failing to provide the weaponry required to end the fighting and Abuja also ended a US training programme for soldiers to take on the militants.

During a visit to Nigeria in January, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington was "prepared to do more" to help Nigeria counter the Boko Haram insurgency.

Last week, Nigeria said it was postponing presidential elections by six weeks to late March amid security concerns.

Jonathan said he was confident the military would be able to reassert control over areas taken by Boko Haram within eight weeks, the Wall Street Journal reported.

"We will be able to take over all the territories that they are holding," he told the newspaper.