[House Hearing, 114 Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]
BOKO HARAM: THE ISLAMIST INSURGENCY IN WEST AFRICA
SUBCOMMITTEE ON TERRORISM, NONPROLIFERATION, AND TRADE
COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED FOURTEENTH CONGRESS
FEBRUARY 24, 2016
Serial No. 114-140
Printed for the use of the Committee on Foreign Affairs
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COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
EDWARD R. ROYCE, California, Chairman
CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH, New Jersey ELIOT L. ENGEL, New York
ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN, Florida BRAD SHERMAN, California
DANA ROHRABACHER, California GREGORY W. MEEKS, New York
STEVE CHABOT, Ohio ALBIO SIRES, New Jersey
JOE WILSON, South Carolina GERALD E. CONNOLLY, Virginia
MICHAEL T. McCAUL, Texas THEODORE E. DEUTCH, Florida
TED POE, Texas BRIAN HIGGINS, New York
MATT SALMON, Arizona KAREN BASS, California
DARRELL E. ISSA, California WILLIAM KEATING, Massachusetts
TOM MARINO, Pennsylvania DAVID CICILLINE, Rhode Island
JEFF DUNCAN, South Carolina ALAN GRAYSON, Florida
MO BROOKS, Alabama AMI BERA, California
PAUL COOK, California ALAN S. LOWENTHAL, California
RANDY K. WEBER SR., Texas GRACE MENG, New York
SCOTT PERRY, Pennsylvania LOIS FRANKEL, Florida
RON DeSANTIS, Florida TULSI GABBARD, Hawaii
MARK MEADOWS, North Carolina JOAQUIN CASTRO, Texas
TED S. YOHO, Florida ROBIN L. KELLY, Illinois
CURT CLAWSON, Florida BRENDAN F. BOYLE, Pennsylvania
SCOTT DesJARLAIS, Tennessee
REID J. RIBBLE, Wisconsin
DAVID A. TROTT, Michigan
LEE M. ZELDIN, New York
DANIEL DONOVAN, New York
Amy Porter, Chief of Staff Thomas Sheehy, Staff Director
Jason Steinbaum, Democratic Staff Director
Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade
TED POE, Texas, Chairman
JOE WILSON, South Carolina WILLIAM KEATING, Massachusetts
DARRELL E. ISSA, California BRAD SHERMAN, California
PAUL COOK, California BRIAN HIGGINS, New York
SCOTT PERRY, Pennsylvania JOAQUIN CASTRO, Texas
REID J. RIBBLE, Wisconsin ROBIN L. KELLY, Illinois
LEE M. ZELDIN, New York
C O N T E N T S
Ms. Jennifer G. Cooke, director, Africa Program, Center for
International and Strategic Studies............................ 4
Ms. Alice Hunt Friend, adjunct senior fellow, Center for New
American Security.............................................. 15
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, Ph.D., senior fellow, Foundation for
Defense of Democracies......................................... 26
LETTERS, STATEMENTS, ETC., SUBMITTED FOR THE HEARING
Ms. Jennifer G. Cooke: Prepared statement........................ 7
Ms. Alice Hunt Friend: Prepared statement........................ 18
Hearing notice................................................... 44
Hearing minutes.................................................. 45
The Honorable Ted Poe, a Representative in Congress from the
State of Texas, and chairman, Subcommittee on Terrorism,
Nonproliferation, and Trade: Statement of Mr. Jacob Zenn,
fellow, African and Eurasian Affairs, The Jamestown Foundation. 46
BOKO HARAM: THE ISLAMIST INSURGENCY IN WEST AFRICA
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 2016
House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade,
Committee on Foreign Affairs,
The subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 2 o'clock
p.m., in room 2200 Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Ted Poe
(chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Mr. Poe. The subcommittee will come to order. Without
objection, all members may have 5 days to submit statements,
questions, and extraneous materials for the record subject to
the length limitation in the rules. I will make my opening
statement at this time.
Boko Haram has killed thousands throughout its reign of
terror in Nigeria and neighboring countries. They strap bombs
to little girls and send them into public markets to act as
suicide bombers. On the screen in front of each member and the
panel, there is a map of Nigeria. There are mostly Christians
in the south, Muslims in the north, and while the vast oil
reserves prop up the economy of the country, the economy in the
north is bad. It has little natural resources, has bad
infrastructure, some say lots of corruption.
For years, the north has felt neglected. So when Boko Haram
started in 2002 it was able to tap into that sense of
disenfranchisement and frustration with government. Boko Haram
means ``Western education is sinful.'' The goal is to create an
Islamic caliphate in West Africa along the lines of ISIS'
caliphate in Iraq and Syria, and they will violently do
anything to achieve the goal.
Boko Haram, like ISIS, tell Christians to convert or die.
Christian women are forced to marry them and convert to Islam.
Christians have seen their schools burned to the ground, some
schools burned to the ground with the children inside. Their
homes are targeted, their churches are destroyed because they
are Christians. We all remember the kidnapping of close to 300
schoolgirls, now almost 2 years ago, in April 2014. Many of
those girls were reportedly forced to convert to Islam and they
are still missing. There are growing concerns that Boko Haram
might have forced some of these girls to carry out suicide
Throughout 2014, the terrorist group successfully seized
huge amounts of territory in northeastern Nigeria. Most of us
are not familiar with how big Nigeria is, but Boko Haram is
holding territory roughly the size of Belgium. To take in more
territory, Boko Haram killed by the thousands, in 2014, Boko
Haram killed nearly 7,000 people--murdered is a better word
than killed--making them the deadliest terrorist group in the
world, even surpassing ISIS.
Boko Haram pledged allegiance to ISIS in 2015 and rebranded
its state as the Islamic State's West Africa Province. Boko
Haram has overextended itself, however, when it tried to hold
territory in Nigeria and other West African militaries were
destroying it in 2015. Boko Haram was forced to give up on
holding territory, but it has not been defeated. Boko Haram is
still capable of launching deadly attacks throughout the Lake
Chad Basin. My staff has tracked these attacks. There is hardly
a day that goes by that there is not some sort of Boko Haram
attack that kills innocent people.
Over the past few years, relations between Nigeria and the
United States have been strained. Joint military trainings were
cancelled and the U.S. hesitated to supply weapons to Nigeria's
military citing other concerns about human rights abuses. The
United States took 11 years to designate Boko Haram as a
foreign terrorist organization, then on November 12th, 2013,
ironically, the night before this subcommittee and the African
Subcommittee had a joint hearing on Boko Haram on why it was
not on the FTO list, State Department called to say it was
going to designate the organization and put them on the Foreign
Terrorist Organization list.
That is an important step, but there are questions about
the implementation of the designation. It does not seem that
all the tools that this designation carries are being brought
to bear on the group, especially when it comes to stopping the
financing of Boko Haram.
The United States has started to do more to help Nigeria
combat Boko Haram since the election of Nigerian President
Buhari in May 2015. Infantry training has restarted and we are
seeing an increased level of cooperation between AFRICOM and
Nigerian military. In October, the administration announced
that it was sending troops and drones to Cameroon as well as
surveillance aircraft to Niger, but like the FTO designation,
these are steps that should have been taken years ago before
Boko Haram was allowed to murder more people than ISIS.
We must do more to support our African partners to stamp
out this Islamic radical menace once and for all. The fighting
against Boko Haram is essential to U.S. national security
interests. In ISIS, we have already seen what happens when we
underestimate a terrorist group. Boko Haram may not have the
capability to attack the United States today, but neither did
al-Qaeda in the years prior to 9/11. This hearing will help
expose this deadly assault Boko Haram has committed against
civilized peoples, and I will yield to the ranking member, Mr.
Keating, from Massachusetts.
Mr. Keating. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for conducting this
important hearing, and I would like to thank our witnesses for
being here today as well.
While it was the heinous and vicious kidnapping in 2014 of
276 schoolgirls from their dormitory in Chibok that first
brought Boko Haram to the attention of much of the world, we
know all too well that this group is responsible for the deaths
of thousands of men, women and children since 2003. In fact, in
2014 alone, Boko Haram was responsible for approximately 7,000
deaths which is higher than the amount attributed to ISIL. ISIL
killed, by comparison, 6,073 in 2014.
In order to study, understand, and successfully combat Boko
Haram, I believe we should view and respond to them as both an
insurgency and as a terrorist organization. At its heart, Boko
Haram is fed on the poverty, unemployment and
disenfranchisement in the northeast part of Nigeria and
surrounding areas as well, accumulating territory and widening
its influence. The northeastern regions where Boko Haram has
celebrated significant territorial gains is largely Muslim and
trails the southern part of the country, which is largely
Christian, in the scope of education and wealth.
Since its establishment, Boko Haram has existed to
marginalize Nigeria's Muslim population and delegitimize its
government. Recent years have borne witness to its graduation
from smaller rudimentary attacks to targeting Nigerian
Government to a full scale assault on Westernization and
governance in Nigeria as well, with both Muslims and Christians
among the victims of Boko Haram's terrorism.
Since 2009, Boko Haram has played a direct harmful role in
destabilizing Nigeria. Its violent campaign against the
government has left parts of the country in ruins. Nearly 1
year ago, in early March 2015, Boko Haram's leader pledged
allegiance to the Islamic State which led to the creation of
the Islamic State's West Africa Province. Boko Haram has long
been linked to other terrorist organizations in Africa,
including al-Qaeda, and this shift in the allegiance could be
interpreted as a quest for increased recruitment and
It is clear that Boko Haram's activities are at the heart
of a broader regional crisis. The group has expanded its
operations into neighboring Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and since
2014, these countries have increasingly been subject to attacks
by this group. This instability has led to unprecedented food
shortages and child malnutrition. According to the United
Nations, more than 5.6 million people are facing a food crisis
in Nigeria and bordering countries.
While there has been more than successful efforts at the
local level and efforts to combat Boko Haram, much work is
still needed to restore peace and provide for the millions of
people impacted by this devastation. This includes internal
efforts to root out corruption within the government and
military, protect and advance cooperation on human rights
practices, and to revitalize subjugated regions within the
country as well as establishing a Multinational Joint Task
Force to combat the threat of the Islamist insurgency in West
Finally, I am grateful for the work of many of my
colleagues led by Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights,
and International Organizations' groups as well, Subcommittee
Ranking Member Karen Bass of California, Nigerian Caucus Chair
Sheila Jackson Lee, and Representative Frederica Wilson, who
advanced the regional strategy to eliminate the threat of Boko
Haram and provide humanitarian relief to the affected regions.
All three of these congresswomen have personally met with
Nigerian officials and even traveled to the region to raise
awareness through Bring Back Our Girls campaign.
These efforts have made real gains in promoting equal
access to education, economic opportunity for women and girls,
and I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today on
existing efforts by the Nigerian Government and regional task
force where there must be increased focus and increased
attention. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.
Mr. Poe. Mr. Higgins, do you want to make an opening
Mr. Higgins. I am good. Go to the panel.
Mr. Poe. All right. So without objection, all the
witnesses' prepared statements will be made part of the record.
I ask that each witness keep their presentation to no more than
5 minutes. And just so you know, it is going to get cooler in
here because the expert just showed up.
I will introduce each witness and give them time for
opening statements. Jennifer Cooke is the director of the
Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International
Studies. She also manages a range of projects on political,
economic and security dynamics in Africa.
Ms. Alice Hunt Friend is an adjunct senior fellow at the
Center for New American Security. She previously served as the
principal director for African Affairs in OSD Policy where she
focused primarily on Libya, South Sudan and the Great Lakes
Dr. Daveed Gartenstein-Ross is a senior fellow at the
Foundation for Defense and Democracies. We thank him for
substituting for Mr. Jacob Zenn who is unable to make it from
Nigeria, and especially the short notice that you came in on.
Dr. Gartenstein-Ross did not provide a written testimony but
will speak to us about Boko Haram broader counterterrorism
issues in Africa.
Ms. Cooke, we will start with you and you have 5 minutes.
STATEMENT OF MS. JENNIFER G. COOKE, DIRECTOR, AFRICA PROGRAM,
CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL AND STRATEGIC STUDIES
Ms. Cooke. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member
Keating and members of the subcommittee. Thank you very much
for the opportunity to testify today on Boko Haram. This
hearing could not be more timely or important. My testimony
today draws substantially on recent travel in January to
Maiduguri in northeast Nigeria, to Abuja and Niamey, and
earlier travel to Northern Mali and Senegal.
I would like to make two broad points. The first is on the
urgency of the situation. Why is it such an important moment
for the United States to engage and amplify its support against
Boko Haram, and second, what should be some of the priority
areas for U.S. support.
So why the urgency? Nigeria and the governments of the
region have unquestionably made important progress against Boko
Haram. The group is largely being routed from territorial
control, thousands of members and a number of its senior
leaders have been captured or killed, thousands of women and
girls have been rescued from brutal captivity, and the groups
media operation, significant weapon in the terrorist arsenal,
has gone largely quiet. That progress is real. It should be
acknowledged and supported.
But it is cold comfort for the victims and families of Boko
Haram's most recent attacks and the many communities and
displaced persons in northeast Nigeria and the broader Lake
Chad Basin region. These communities remain vulnerable to
asymmetrical attacks, and eliminating the capacity for these
attacks would be much more difficult than a territorial rout.
The regional and global context makes this an even more
critical moment for decisive action to prevent Boko Haram from
regenerating or a successor group from taking its place. Every
effort should be made to ensure that the Lake Chad region and
the Sahel, more broadly, do not become proxy battleground for
al-Qaeda and ISIL or broader ideological coalitions.
Boko Haram and other Sahelian extremist groups have a long
record of dynamism and opportunism. Alliance amongst these
groups that include training, weaponry tactics are dangerous,
but growing rivalries between them could prove equally
dangerous. Boko Haram, as you have said, pledged allegiance to
ISIL last year. At the same time, al-Qaeda's Sahelian
affiliates, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, al-Mourabitoun and
others, have reasserted themselves with high profile attacks in
Bamako and Ouagadougou. After being temporarily on the
defensive and losing ground to the ISIL brand, the quest for
notoriety and one-upmanship among these various jihadist groups
will have tragic human costs.
The entrenchment of ISIL in Libya adds to the urgency.
ISIL's rising profile right now is a magnet for many fighters.
Security forces have intercepted militants traveling from
Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Mali, into Libya and we know that some
have successfully managed to get to the front lines. Political
stabilization and military intervention against ISIL in Libya
may be good for Libya, but it will almost certainly drive these
fighters back out into the region more battle hardened, better
armed, and more ruthless than before.
I am going to quickly move to priorities, areas for
engagement. We know that a long term, comprehensive approach
that puts economic opportunity and education at the center will
be important, but it is not the time for that. We don't have
the degree of normalcy that allows that. Those need to be
started with urgency, but we need some immediate steps before
that can fully happen.
Help prevent Boko Haram from regenerating. Essential to
preventing regeneration of Boko Haram will be cooperation among
Nigeria and its regional neighbors to block supply routes and
exfiltration, eradicate rear bases and training camps, and
share intelligence on movements of weaponry and supplies. The
Multinational Joint Task Force is being riven by rivalries and
recriminations. U.S. has to pressure those countries to come
together for genuine cooperation.
Blocking the financial supply routes, critically important.
U.S. should mobilize significant resources to this end through
the Department of Treasury's Terrorist Financing Tracking
Program, building the capacity of Nigeria and others to do the
Third is to support an off ramp for Boko Haram fighters
that makes surrender a more attractive option. They are not all
there for their own will. Many of are being coerced, many
including women are being kidnapped and indoctrinated. The U.S.
State Department and USAID should support Nigerian efforts to
help sort these many fighters, fast track them through a
judicial process and provide programming for reintegration,
deradicalization where possible.
The second big area is to support civilian protection and
welfare. We have to support the capacity and professionalism of
regional forces--more engagement not less. I know that human
rights abuses by the Nigerian military have been a sticking
point in U.S.-Nigerian military engagement. The U.S. Government
should continue to press for accountability, but it should also
recognize that appropriate training and equipment can help
mitigate the possibility of human rights abuse. As Nigerian
troops have become more competent and better equipped,
incidents of abuse have diminished. Boko Haram has killed more
civilians in the last year than ISIL and it is not a good time
to deny regional forces the access to the critical equipment
that they need.
My final point is to support internally displaced people
and Boko Haram surviving victims. Some 3 million people in the
region have been displaced because of Boko Haram. The vast
majority are in Nigeria, but in the surrounding region as well.
There is little certainty on when they will be able to return
to their homes. The international community along with Nigerian
Government and citizens need to rally to support these
displaced communities ensuring that the many children among
them are given the education and services they need to thrive
and to eventually help rebuild the northeast region.
Finally, the fate of these 219 girls kidnapped by Chibok
remains an enduring and tragic mystery and the effort to locate
and recover them should be sustained and supporting. But there
are thousands of girls and women who have escaped and been
rescued from captivity who have endured unthinkable brutality
and trauma and they should not be neglected. The U.S.
Government and indeed the American people should support and
amplify the efforts of Nigeria and the region to give these
survivors the psychosocial, economic and moral support that
they very well deserve. Thank you very much. I will leave it at
that and welcome your questions.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Cooke follows:]
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Mr. Poe. Well, you are going to get those in a minute.
Ms. Friend, I recognize you for your opening statement.
STATEMENT OF MS. ALICE HUNT FRIEND, ADJUNCT SENIOR FELLOW,
CENTER FOR NEW AMERICAN SECURITY
Ms. Friend. Thank you, Chairman Poe. Chairman Poe, Ranking
Member Keating, members of the subcommittee, it is an honor to
be here today to participate in the important ongoing
discussion of the threat Boko Haram poses to Nigeria and the
wider West African region. Throughout its almost 14-year
history, Boko Haram has proven to be a ruthless and resilient
organization, and it is wise to continue taking the threat the
group poses seriously despite its recent setbacks.
Since early 2015, Nigeria, joined by a multinational
coalition has prosecuted an offensive against Boko Haram that
has deprived the group of its territorial control and degraded
its capacity to confront national security forces directly.
This is the second retreat for the group since 2002 and
demonstrates its comparative weakness when confronted with a
well organized and determined military force.
In an insurgency, however, the offense often has the
advantage. Battered but undeterred, Boko Haram has turned again
to asymmetric tactics and a rich array of targets. The group
terrorizes public spaces that are notoriously difficult to
secure such as markets and transit depots, attacks often
feature multiple coordinated bombings and increasingly rely on
kidnapped women and girls wearing suicide vests. These strikes
have succeeded in reestablishing the group's pre-2015 daily
tempo of casualties, killing and injuring upwards of 50 to 100
people in an average attack. A mix of attacks on urban and
rural areas gives the population a sense that there is no
refuge from Boko Haram's reign of terror.
Despite their continued ability to menace daily life in the
northeast, just how large and capable the group is today
compared to late 2014 is difficult to assess. Boko Haram's
remaining members seem to be scattered throughout the Nigerian
countryside and the border regions with Chad, Niger, and
Cameroon. Their use of kidnapped women to exercise suicide
attacks, while tactically advantageous, also suggests a
shrunken supply of adult male foot soldiers. The group has been
reduced to ambushes along rural roads in lieu of territorial
Perhaps as a way to distract from its battlefield losses,
in March of last year Boko Haram's leader, Abubakar Shekau,
publicly declared the group's allegiance to the Islamic State.
The practical effect of this allegiance is unclear so far.
There is some evidence that the Islamic State may have
attempted to support earlier improvements to Boko Haram's media
campaign, but there are fewer signs of financial support of
capacity building flowing to the West African affiliate. Some
analysts speculate that the alliance largely served propaganda
purposes for both groups making the Islamic State look like it
was expanding even under intense pressure in the Middle East,
and making Boko Haram look relevant to the global Islamist
Upon his election in 2015, Nigeria's new President,
Muhammadu Buhari, pledged to defeat Boko Haram by the end of
the year and took several actions to advance toward this goal
including ostensibly increasing resources for military
personnel after years of underinvestment. At the same time, the
Buhari administration has announced renewed efforts to
investigate and prosecute military violations of human rights
and corruption. It is unclear how far these anti-corruption
efforts aimed at the security services will truly go, but
Buhari's efforts to date represent long overdue steps in the
Nigeria's revitalization of its counterterrorism operations
has been aided by a regional and international push for
collaboration to combat the threat. In the wake of the Chibok
schoolgirl kidnappings in 2014, Benin, Chad, Cameroon, Niger
and Nigeria agreed to reactivate a longstanding but disused
Multinational Joint Task Force structure. The MNJTF's tasks
include targeted operations against Boko Haram, capturing
members of the terrorist group, border security, recovery of
abductees, regional coordination and intelligence sharing.
Unfortunately, the MNJTF has had an uneven start with budget
and troop shortfalls and limited coordination efforts leading
to questions about the task force's sustainability.
Task force members focus largely on their own border
regions and it is unclear how much tactical, operational, or
strategic level coordination actually occurs. Nevertheless,
real operational gains have resulted from the combined, if not
entirely coordinated, efforts. Just yesterday, for example,
Nigerian and Cameroonian forces carried out a successful joint
operation that reportedly resulted in 20 Boko Haram casualties
and a rescue of 150 captives.
Beyond these immediate security efforts, the conflict has
displaced upwards of 2 million people, many of whom are
children. This glut of refugees and the challenges behind
reintegrating former Boko Haram captives indicate a
humanitarian and social crisis that may long outlast the
In this context, the Nigerian Government must take a strong
lead in developing the political will and financial commitment
to provide holistic security in areas ravaged by Boko Haram.
Such a security plan should include an effective policing
capacity to protect the population and deny Boko Haram's
successful attacks coupled with ongoing military operations to
keep the terrorists on the defensive. Both forces should be
bolstered by intelligence capabilities and linked to an
efficient justice sector able to conduct detention operations
and swift prosecutions according to international legal
All of this must be coupled with a robust development
program that can provide basic services and infrastructure to
long neglected communities. Nigeria does not have to do this
work on its own. International assistance including from the
United States offers a deep well of resources and expertise to
the government and Boko Haram's victims.
Nigeria is a beneficiary of multiple U.S. security
assistance programs through which the U.S. has recently
provided communications gear, equipment and armored vehicles.
The U.S. also supports efforts by other regional partners to
combat Boko Haram including Niger and Cameroon, and frequently
consults with European partners to coordinate efforts and share
information. This broad approach ensures that the counter-Boko
Haram effort is a diversified and sustainable portfolio of
investment in regional and international partners.
But it is important to remember that international support
efforts can only proceed at the pace set by Nigeria. The U.S.
recently restarted infantry battalion training after a long
hiatus with plans to build on such engagements and ongoing
evaluations of Nigerian equipment requests. Continued
accusations of human rights violations by Nigerian security
forces and Nigerians' own concerns about protecting its
sovereignty mean that all external support is preceded with
careful and mutual evaluations of both sides' intentions. These
engagements are complex but must continue in order to sustain
pressure on Boko Haram. The U.S. and other Nigerian partners
should continue to point out the connections between government
conduct in the north and the resilience and support of the
local communities sustaining an upper hand against Boko Haram.
Thank you, and I look forward to your questions.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Friend follows:]
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Mr. Poe. Thank you very much.
Dr. Gartenstein-Ross, it is your turn.
STATEMENT OF DAVEED GARTENSTEIN-ROSS, PH.D., SENIOR FELLOW,
FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES
Mr. Gartenstein-Ross. Thank you, Chairman Poe, Ranking
Member Keating, and distinguished members. As Chairman Poe
mentioned, I was a last-minute addition to this panel,
substituting in for Jacob Zenn whose written statement, I
think, is very granular, and I very much recommend.
I think the previous two statements do a very good job of
providing, in detail, the situation on the ground, so what I
want to do is take a somewhat broader look at the question of
where is Boko Haram today compared to where it was in the past,
and what do we need to do to more effectively address not just
Boko Haram but the challenge of other militant groups as well?
Ms. Friend referred to previous Boko Haram retreats. You
can tabulate them in different ways. I count personally at
least two since 2009. One of them in '09 is when Boko Haram was
essentially defeated. Its leader Mohammed Yusuf was killed, and
around 1,000 members were killed during that period. It was
scattered and relied upon primarily al-Qaeda and the Islamic
Maghreb, but also al-Shabaab in Somalia to help it regenerate.
In 2013, the Nigerian Government launched an offensive starting
in May against Boko Haram which also pushed it back, though not
I think that, right now, Boko Haram is more vulnerable than
what it was in 2013. President Buhari has more of a political
incentive to maintain the Boko Haram than there was back in
2013. You have multiple states' militaries going after the
And a third thing is we have talked about the defection to
the Islamic State. Now there is problems with the defection
from our perspective, but also there is some opportunity. I
think it makes them more vulnerable, because previously Boko
Haram, when it was part of the al-Qaeda network, its major
source of strength outside of Nigeria was in Mali. Today its
major source of strength is in Libya which is further away. It
was much easier for them to use surrounding territories when
they were part of the al-Qaeda network.
But the question really is, how effectively will we take
advantage of this opening of these vulnerabilities and craft a
solution? One sad conclusion that I have reached is that we as
a government are just not very good at fighting against violent
non-state actors. If you look at our record over the past
decade and a half when this was a top strategic priority, we
have not been effective. In the 21st century you have perhaps
only two major violent non-state actor groups who have been
defeated. One of them, the LTTE in Sri Lanka which was wiped
out by the Sri Lankan Government, and the other one being the
Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan which was wiped out by the
Taliban in recent months. Overall, we have trouble.
So what I would point to as some of the source of our
trouble is that violent non-state actors are very much, they
are very old in conception, but in other ways they are a 21st
century problem. If you look at the 20th century, it is what I
call the Westphalian moment when the state system inscribed in
the Peace of Westphalia was so dominant that non-state actors
who were launching insurgencies or who were nationalist
terrorist groups couldn't think of any other way to be. They
wanted to be states, ranging from the anti-Colonial
insurgencies to terrorist groups like the IRA, the LTTE,
Palestinian terrorist groups, the ETA, all of these wanted to
be states. In the 21st century you are seeing groups like ISIS,
Boko, al-Qaeda, which are able to do many things states do--
provide services, govern. They don't want to have any part of
the state system.
I would analogize this to what we are seeing in the
economics sphere because it is a very similar situation. In the
economic sphere, going to the very end of the 20th century,
conventional wisdom was that bigger was better; that when
Blockbuster came into town it was going to drive your local
video store out; that bookstores like Borders would be able to,
with their megastores, dominate local markets. But these
businesses failed to adapt to changing circumstances. They were
too bureaucratic, too slow to adjust strategically. Borders
didn't even have a Web site until 1998, 3 years after Amazon
launched. When it finally put together its own e-reader to
compete with Kindle, they made people come into the store to
actually go to a download station which defeated the purpose of
That is what our Government is. We are very slow to adapt.
Violent non-state actors are like start-ups in the political
organizing sphere. They have the same advantages. They are able
to adapt strategically, quickly, they don't face our
bureaucracy, and part of the move of ISIS into Africa, part of
that story is ISIS actually convincing the media that they
controlled a city in Libya that they didn't, the city of Derna.
They control Sirte today, but at the time that BBC, CNN and
others reported on ISIS' control of Derna, which helped show
Boko how strong ISIS was, they did not control Derna. And one
thing that was frustrating for me in talking to multiple people
within the U.S. Government was that there was no one in place
to puncture this myth, and it was bad for us. It was bad for us
that they were able to sustain this myth.
So looking at, I would say part of what we should be
talking about, we should be talking about the policy solutions
put forward here because these are very good, and as was said
by Ms. Cooke, there is a sense of urgency. We need to act. But
at the same time we have to think about our organizational
structure, because many of the problems that we confront
systemically in this area come down to lack of coordination,
inefficient contracting rules, and not having the right people
in place for this.
We need to, just like big industries have adapted by
understanding the principles of their competitors we need to do
the same thing, because we have an organizational structure
that is not well suited for 21st century challenges. Thank you.
[Mr. Gartenstein-Ross did not submit a prepared statement.]
Mr. Poe. I thank all of our witnesses. I recognize myself
for 5 minutes of questions. Boko Haram was established in 2002.
We had a hearing in 2013 wanting to know why they weren't part
of the Foreign Terrorist Organization. The day before the
hearing, ironically, the State Department designated them as a
Foreign Terrorist Organization. That brings with it certain
status that we supposedly as a nation focus on that
organization because they are a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
My question to you, has anything happened to Boko Haram
because they are now a Foreign Terrorist Organization? Have we
imposed any of the things we can do such as sanctions and going
after the finances against Boko Haram since that? Any of you
want to weigh in on that? Ms. Cooke?
Ms. Cooke. Sure. I think because of the nature of Boko
Haram at that time and the fact that it doesn't bank in the
United States, its members don't travel to the United States,
it doesn't bank through formal institutions, I think some of
the tools of the Foreign Terrorist Organization declaration
weren't particularly helpful and didn't add a great deal except
perhaps drawing greater U.S. policymaker attention to the
I think now, now that the Nigerian Government itself has
made cutting the group's financial sources a priority and
President Buhari mentioned that in his inaugural address and we
know that the group has expanded its regional connections, I
think this is a moment where we can bring those tools much more
into play to assist the Nigerians in doing that. That has to be
done in coordination with other international and regional law
enforcement agencies and financial institutions. That is a
vital priority in preventing their eventual regeneration.
Mr. Poe. The Boko Haram has a reputation, and I think it is
based on facts, unfortunately, of targeting young women,
Christian women, and either forcing them to convert or pay the
consequences of sex slavery or murder. Is this a fundamental
principle of this specific terrorist organization? Dr. Ross, do
you want to weigh in on that?
Mr. Gartenstein-Ross. It is a fundamental principle of a
number of different jihadist organizations. It is a fundamental
principle of Boko Haram. ISIS also has done the same thing if
you look at their treatment of Yazidis. And if you look at the
Nusra Front, which is al-Qaeda's affiliate in Syria, they also
have a forced conversion program that they have imposed upon
the Druze sect, which I read about in Foreign Affairs last
year. So the answer is an unequivocal yes.
Mr. Poe. The activity of murdering folks, young females,
Christians, would that in your opinion, any of you, fit the
definition of genocide? Ms. Cooke, yes or no?
Ms. Cooke. Well, I think they are less, they are
indiscriminate in their attacks and we have to acknowledge that
many, many of their victims, and perhaps the majority, have
been Muslims who equally are forced to adapt this much, this
very foreign version of Islam. So I don't know that that label
applies in this case.
Mr. Poe. Okay. Anybody else?
Mr. Gartenstein-Ross. I believe it applies, and much more
so in Iraq and Syria where you actually have governance. Boko
Haram's most recent experience with governance in Borno was
very short-lived, so you didn't get to see the program get
borne out. But the definition of genocide is intent to destroy
in whole or in part. And that is absolutely what ISIS did to
the Yazidis. It is absolutely what right now Nusra is doing to
the Druze. And it, in my view, absolutely applies to what is
being done to the Christians as well.
You can see ISIS' cancellation of the jizya, which is the
tax that non-Muslims who are concerned People of the Book can
pay to continue practicing their religion, they cancelled the
jizya in Mosul thus causing all Christians to flee the city. In
my view it is actually unequivocal.
It is absolutely correct what Ms. Cooke said that they do
also target Muslims, but the intent to destroy in my view is
very clear. They are going to try to subjugate Muslims, but
groups that are not like them with a few minor exceptions
including Shia Muslims are groups that they are absolutely out
Mr. Poe. Last question. Ms. Friend, you haven't answered
any of my questions, or I haven't asked you any, but the world
heard about those girls that were kidnapped and you mentioned
in your testimony we don't really know what happened to them.
What happened to them? What do you think happened to them,
those 200 to 300 girls?
Ms. Friend. Well, sir, I can only speculate what happened
to them. And my personal speculation is that some of them were
sold into human trafficking, some of them were taken on as
child brides or sex slaves, and I fear that some of them have
been used in these suicide bombings that we are now hearing
about. Boko Haram has kidnapped so many children and so many
people over time that it is very hard to sort out especially in
suicide bombings who is who, but that is my fear and what makes
logical sense to me.
But it is true that, as far as we know, as far as the
Nigerians know, members of the Joint Task Force that most of
those girls are still unaccounted for. I believe something like
57 escaped at the time, so we are looking at closer to 200
girls that are still missing. But President Buhari recently
also sounded a note of caution about being able to recover
them. So even Buhari who is quite optimistic about defeat of
the Boko Haram is not optimistic about recovery of the girls at
this point unfortunately.
Mr. Poe. All right, thank you very much. My time is expired
and I will yield to the gentleman from Massachusetts for his
Mr. Keating. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Since Boko Haram's
pledge of allegiance to ISIL, has that had an effect on its
recruitment and its retention capabilities? And also, where is
it getting its financing? Where is it getting its weapons and
supplies from specifically? You mentioned, I think, Ms. Friend,
that some of it is selling, the human trafficking gain,
financial gains from that. But what else, and where is it
getting the weapons?
Ms. Friend. Yes, sir. As far as financing goes, Jennifer
and I were talking about it a little bit before the hearing
began. Traditionally they got much of their financing through
extortion, through bank robberies, through looting. Jennifer
has some more insights, I think, on sort of more recent
information about where they might be getting more support. But
those have been their traditional sources. A lot of the kinds
of attacks that they undertake are not high cost. They use very
low tech IEDs, for example, so unfortunately a little bit of
money goes a long way for this group.
Mr. Keating. A couple of, if I could, a couple of more
recent developments in the last 2 or 3 months I just want to
get your opinions on. Number one, in December the Nigerian
military attacked and killed a number of Shia Muslims in the
town of Zaria. And do you think that is an indication of future
trends for sectarian violence, and what is the government doing
to try and quell the Sunni-Shia tensions?
Ms. Cooke. I think it is a very good question and there is
still a lot that is not known about the circumstances of the
Zaria attack that killed some 400 Shiite Muslims and grievously
wounded the group's leader Zakzaky. There is an investigation
underway and that may give more clarity. Senior officials that
I have spoken to hint at some kind of imminent and dangerous
threat, but there is not a lot of public discourse on that.
Mr. Keating. The other thing that I just want to touch
upon, the last couple of months there have been reports through
separate media sources about Cameroonians committing human
rights abuses inside Nigeria. Do you have any comments on that
and what the effect could be and how legitimate those reports
Ms. Cooke. I haven't heard those reports. But in terms of
the Shiite split, I think that the Nigerian Government needs to
tread very carefully there. Iran called, President Rouhani
called President Buhari shortly thereafter. The Saudi Arabian
king called him shortly thereafter. What you don't want to see
is some ideological proxy playing out in the north of Nigeria.
Mr. Keating. That is my fear as well. Ms. Friend?
Ms. Friend. Sir, if I may add, Nigeria also has had years
and years of Christian-Muslim violence that is a major problem
for stability in the country. Going further into sectarian
violence amongst Muslims plays exactly into Boko Haram's hands.
And so I completely agree with Jennifer on this case. I
think the government has to be very careful about this and not
improve the narrative for Boko Haram while they are at it.
Mr. Keating. Another concern I had just recently is just
what is occurring in terms of the shift, if there is a shift at
all, with President Goodluck Jonathan using private forces,
mercenaries as well? The President, Buhari, rather, he wanted
to shift away from that. Is that happening, or is there still
use of mercenaries at all, and are there difficulties because
of the use of those mercenaries and having control over them
and their conduct as well?
Ms. Cooke. I am one of the people that think, actually, the
South African contractors actually contributed a good deal to
better tactics and more sustained and coordinated attacks to
push Boko Haram out of the territories.
Mr. Keating. Are they still using those forces?
Ms. Cooke. They are not still using them and they may
recur. There may be private contractors brought on again,
whether it is these same or not. So that is at an end right
now. That was at a time that the United States, for example,
did not want to provide certain materiel to the Nigerian
Government because of human rights abuses.
Mr. Keating. Well, just quickly, listening to all of your
testimony, I don't think there is a conflict but it is worth
commenting on. Ms. Cooke, you mentioned that some of the gains
we made were with media, and part of that might be quelling
their ability to do it, but Dr. Gartenstein-Ross mentioned our
inability to deal with these issues of propaganda or media as
well. Is there a way to reconcile those two things if indeed
there is a conflict in your two statements?
Ms. Cooke. Well, we believe that Abubakar Shekau has been
taken out and he was--whether 2 years ago followed by imposters
or just recently--and he was really the center of the media
propaganda effort. He has not been seen on the scene since
March. But regeneration will certainly entail a renewal of more
nimble sophisticated media techniques.
Mr. Keating. And do you agree with Dr. Gartenstein-Ross
that we have to do a better job of sort of puncturing the myths
that are out there?
Ms. Cooke. Absolutely. We are slower on that online stuff
than these young militants.
Mr. Keating. My time is expired. I yield back, Mr.
Mr. Poe. I thank the gentleman from Massachusetts.
Mr. Perry. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Ms. Cooke, in your
opinion, why did it take us so long to designate Boko Haram a
Ms. Cooke. Well, and I testified before this hearing some
time back shortly after Boko Haram reemerged after 2009. At
that time the group was extremely fractured. We didn't really
have a sense of what was Boko Haram. Nigeria at that time did
not want it designated an FTO organization, in part because
there were certain elements within it that it felt that it
could peel away, and the potential of having talks with certain
elements within Boko Haram was very popular in Nigeria, across
To my mind, at that time the designation didn't give you
tools that would make, be more effective. As I said, they don't
bank in the United States, they don't use banking institutions.
But what it might have done at that time was give greater
coherence to a group that was very fractured and ideologically
and internally divided at that time.
I think the eventual call was right. But at that time I
think there is a legitimate difference of opinion on whether it
should have happened or not. My sense was that, because the
Nigerian Government didn't want it, because it might have lent
that greater coherence and brand name to the group, we should
have postponed it.
Mr. Perry. I guess I understand. It is in their country and
they had reservations about it, but in hindsight.
Ms. Cooke. Well, there is no question----
Mr. Perry. I mean, you are never going to know, right? You
are never going to know if we would have designated it earlier
whether it would have, would it be the advent of the coalescing
of those desperate portions.
Ms. Cooke. That is right. But we don't know that it would
have added any benefit in our fight against Boko Haram since
the tool is directed at bank accounts, asset freezes, sanctions
and so forth.
Mr. Perry. And that is the only thing as you understand it
Ms. Cooke. Well, I know, but it elevates attention to the
group at that time.
Mr. Perry. Right.
Ms. Cooke. As I said, I think there are legitimate
differences of opinion. There was a trade-off. There was a
chance at that time of dividing the group. And eventually as we
know the designation was given.
Mr. Perry. So what is the trigger? So we are watching it.
The government, the local government, state government doesn't
want them to be designated for whatever they see as legitimate
reasons. We don't want to increase the visibility and have
these desperate organizations coalesce, but at what point do we
say enough is enough? The ends would be that we don't want them
to be, these groups to become as powerful as this one has
become and pervasive as it has, so what is the trigger point?
What do we get out of this model for the next model?
Ms. Cooke. Well, look, I think in every instance there is
going to be a debate within the administration with the
Congress on what makes most sense in that particular very
unique context. And I don't think there is going to be, there
is no set trigger point in anything. I think you have to look
at the totality of the benefits and the potential costs.
Mr. Perry. So fair enough. Which organizations have we not
designated or that we have designated a terrorist organization
that has caused the coalescing? Is there any empirical data? Is
there anything to say that--these are going to keep springing
up, right? If it is not here, it is going to be somewhere.
Ms. Cooke. Well, some people thought that the designation
of Shabaab kind of came at a poor moment, for example, and kind
of elevated, gave them a propaganda tool. And as I said, I
think in retrospect the FTO designation didn't fundamentally
change how we were dealing with Boko Haram at the time.
Mr. Perry. So do we need to change what the FTO designation
means in real terms, what that construct is? Is it just banking
or is it something--do we need take a look at that looking at--
you were talking about earlier about how our Government--or
maybe it was you, Dr. Ross, about how we are slow to react
because of a bureaucracy and so on and so forth, and they are
very quick to react. So is there something that we need to take
a look at it in this paradigm that needs to change so that our
reaction is meaningful in thwarting these organizations?
Ms. Cooke. Well, I would have to reflect a little bit on
what that might be. I think recognizing the danger and the
potential of the group is important, and if the FTO designation
does that that is a loss in retrospect.
Mr. Perry. But how many do we know that we haven't
designated that since we didn't designate them they kind of
fizzled out on their own? What does that look like? What is
Ms. Cooke. Well, I don't know the record of debates on the
Mr. Perry. No, no. I am not talking about the record of the
debates. I am talking about which organizations where we are
saying, well, we are thinking about designating them in an FTO,
but if we do it might heighten awareness to them and actually
make them what they are aspiring to be, so let us hold off. How
many of those are out there that we know of where we were
successful by not designating them and then they fizzled out?
Do we know what that number is?
Ms. Cooke. I don't.
Mr. Perry. And I will tell you, with indulgence, Mr.
Chairman, the context is, is that it seems to me we keep
waiting for whatever reason, maybe legitimate and maybe not, to
designate some of these people that go around doing the
horrific things that they do, and my experience has been from
at least watching from afar is that we wait too long, they
metastasize, they become very powerful and then we have got to
deal with this.
So if we are looking at this as a model for future
operations and future decisions, it seems to me we ought to get
something out of it, which is some kind of standard or trigger
point or something, by which we say that is enough. We don't
want it to get--we don't want to have this problem get any
bigger than it is and then do something as opposed to, well, it
is all episodic and today it is this one and tomorrow it is
that one and we are just going to do it; we are going to wing
it every time, because it seems to me we have been failing at
winging it. That is my opinion.
With that, Mr. Chairman, I yield.
Mr. Poe. I thank the gentleman. The chair recognizes the
gentleman from New York, Mr. Higgins.
Mr. Higgins. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Dr. Ross, you had
indicated, you were talking about violent non-state actors
before and you characterized Boko Haram as a violent non-state
actor. Yet, they use brutal killings of innocent people as a
method to demonstrate the incapacity of the Nigerian state.
They terrorize local populations. They engage the military in
bloody conflict. They seek to destabilize and overthrow the
government and install an Islamic caliphate. So are they not,
don't they have a state controlled aspiration?
Mr. Gartenstein-Ross. Absolutely they do. I use the term
``violent non-state actor'' because to me it is a catch-all
term that could include different modes of military operation,
right. We tend right now in discourse to refer to these groups
as terrorist groups, which is accurate for most of them, but at
the same time for Boko it is not just a terrorist group.
Usually a terrorist group is relatively weak and can't
militarily engage, can't hold territory. They use terrorism to
try to provoke a state reaction and rally a community to their
Boko, in contrast, was last year at this time the dominant
force in Borno State in northeastern Nigeria. So they also
could engage in insurgent warfare, they are also able to seize
territory and govern. That is why I use that particular term.
Mr. Higgins. Yes. Well, look at, I think on the whole of
Africa as a continent it is 55 countries now including South
Sudan, the newest country in the world. How many failed states
are in the continent of Africa?
Mr. Gartenstein-Ross. Off the top of my head and the fact
that it is hard to tabulate, but a very easy answer is there is
much more than we should be comfortable with and there is also
those states which aren't failed but are in danger of failing.
Tunisia, for example, which nobody would call a failed state is
fundamentally, existentially threatened by these attacks on its
tourist industry which could send it into an economic death
Mr. Higgins. Boko Haram which literally is ``Western
education is forbidden'' aligns itself with ISIS. ISIS seems to
have maybe not shifted, but emphasized less emphasis on oil
revenues, more on territorial gains, because the more territory
they can control the more they can impose taxes, they can
preside over countries and using that as leverage to extract
money to support their bloody deeds all over.
Given the fragile state of affairs in Africa, particularly
Central Africa, is Africa a means to provide for access to
Mr. Gartenstein-Ross. Yes. That shouldn't be overstated,
but it certainly is something that has been discussed in ISIS
propaganda. The degree to which Europe is able to control the
flow in by sea is limited, and it seems that already terrorist
groups to a limited extent are trying to place operatives
amongst the refugee inflow.
Mr. Higgins. What is the role, if any, of the African
Mr. Gartenstein-Ross. I believe the African Union is
charged obviously with a number of things including security. I
mean, I think when you are looking at Africa there is two
different models, right.
Mr. Higgins. Security for whom?
Mr. Gartenstein-Ross. Well, security for African states. So
Mr. Higgins. All right. What is the population of the
continent with its 55 countries of Africa?
Mr. Gartenstein-Ross. Off the top of my head?
Ms. Cooke. Billion-plus.
Mr. Higgins. Billion-plus? Billion? How many African Union
military personnel are engaged, activated?
Mr. Gartenstein-Ross. It is limited. I mean, you have----
Mr. Higgins. About?
Mr. Gartenstein-Ross. Well, in Somalia it is about today, I
think, sort of reaching 9,000 and 12,000. Then you have the
Ecowas and Minusma contingents in Mali. The number is in the
tens of thousands as opposed to----
Mr. Higgins. Let me ask this. Let me put it to you another
way. How many stable countries are there in Africa? One, two?
Ms. Cooke: Many. Many.
Mr. Gartenstein-Ross. Yes, 30, 40. The majority are stable.
But I will say one thing to cap this, which is as you said,
ISIS, its model right now is to seize territory and to hold
territory. I mean, we have talked about al-Qaeda and how Boko
went over from al-Qaeda to ISIS. To me, I am more worried about
al-Qaeda's strategy which seems to be a strategy of progressive
So if you look at Libya, for example, ISIS does hold
territory. And one of the things that makes action, military
action, against ISIS in Sirte, such a difficult thing for us to
agree to is that if you were to push ISIS out, al-Qaeda could
well be the beneficiary. So you retake a city from ISIS without
actually winning anything for it.
I am much more concerned about this progressive
destabilization. Right now you can see Boko tried to control
Borno State. It got pushed out. Sometimes you can get too
greedy. But one thing, given population pressures, resource
pressures including pressures on the water supply in numerous
countries, one thing that you can bet on in the longer term is
it is hard to keep these countries stable. So if I am looking
at it, it is hard to prevent actors like this whose long term
goal is to destabilize and to capitalize off of that
Mr. Higgins. Just a final thought, Mr. Chairman. Look at
South Sudan. South Sudan became the newest country in the world
in July 2011. And they were in a civil war with Sudan for 30
years, and they have become their own state and primarily
Christian in the south, and now there is tribal battle between
the Dinkas and the Nuers. And we just saw a Protection of
Civilians facility attacked by government officials where some
20,000 people were essentially murdered and another 30,000
displaced, again, and you talk to officials in South Sudan who
want to have diplomatic relations with us and they talk about
how we have to get the U.N. out of there. Well, the only
organization that is protecting people is the United Nations.
It is the second largest mission in the world.
So these corrupt governments, and if you look at the World
Economic Forum, and you see that they only contribute about 5
percent of their budgets and they are oil-rich. I mean, South
Sudan, most of the oil reserves are in the south, but the
infrastructure is in the north. They have the potential. But
less than 5 percent goes to education, to health care, to
infrastructure. I mean, you can't move around South Sudan but
for about a 2-mile radius within the capital city of Juba. This
is a major problem. And I don't have a solution, but it
obviously appears as though whatever strategy is being deployed
has been an abject failure. It is going to continue to fail and
so long as there is failed states they are going to serve as a
breeding ground for groups like this and ISIS.
Mr. Gartenstein-Ross. If I may, because I know that we are
over time, I just want to refer back to what I said in my oral
statement. That is why I think it is so important for us to
think about our own internal structures for decision making,
because what you are referring to--look, beating these groups
militarily is in my view the easy part. The hard part is
leaving behind something stable and pushing them back as part
of a coordinated strategy.
And within government my view is that we are absolutely
dysfunctional in this regard. Like, we have a lot of trouble
leaving behind something that is stable and we need to think
about why that is. And a lot of it maybe comes down to our
organizational structure is just not suited for a lot of these
tasks. I believe it can be, but this is absolutely a problem
and one that we shouldn't push to the side when we are thinking
about these regions and trying to think of what is a good
policy. The fact that we have systemically been awful at
executing, and leaving behind stability has to be a part of the
discussion and something that we think about as we think about
our own Government for the 21st century.
Mr. Higgins: Who is we?
Mr. Gartenstein-Ross. Well, we would be you all,
policymakers who are in a very good position to hold hearings
looking at this. Those of us who are outside of government
working in the think tanks here and the like also are
positioned to push the ball forward, but ultimately, to me the
people who are in the best position to ask these questions and
to get action on them are elected members of the legislature.
To me that is really where the center is for the kind of
governmental reforms we need. I think the White House as well.
Mr. Poe. The gentleman's time has expired. I have been very
liberal on this issue, a word I don't use very often. The chair
will recognize the gentlelady from Florida, Ms. Wilson, who is
not a member of this subcommittee but is invited to ask
questions because this is an important issue for her. The chair
recognizes Ms. Wilson from Florida.
Ms. Wilson. Thank you so much for having this hearing
today. It is truly, truly needed. And I have several questions.
I hope I don't run out of time.
But when President Buhari won the election in part because
of his commitment to defeating Boko Haram, he contends that the
group has been technically defeated. Is Boko Haram stronger or
weaker since Buhari has taken over? That is number one.
And number two, because of Nigeria's human rights record--
and we went to Nigeria twice and they were asking for the
ability to buy arms and weapons from the United States and
something called the Leahy Law prevents that. How do you get
around the Leahy Law? How many people do you kill? Because Boko
Haram according to all national newspapers is number one of the
most terrorist, they have killed more people than any other
terrorist group in the world. So when are we able to get the
right people in the right places to defeat them? This is for
anyone who can answer.
Ms. Cooke. I think, and as I said in my remarks, I think
Boko Haram is very much weaker, but that does not mean that it
is any less lethal and dangerous for the communities of that
region, and we have seen that in the horrific attacks of the
last few weeks. So this is a moment to weaken them even further
and to eliminate their ability to then regenerate.
I think the asymmetrical attacks that they now launch that
is a much more vexing problem because the area is so vast than
just clearing them off of territory. And that requires very
nimble responses, much better communication among military
forces and with the communities and the capacity to move very
quickly and respond.
On the Leahy Law, I fully support the principles and the
logic behind the Leahy Law. I do think there might be, there
should be room for some flexibility in looking at this so it is
applied less broadly to entire units. Perhaps focus on
individuals or smaller units. You look at----
Ms. Wilson. I don't want to cut you off, but that is the
answer we got from, actually, the senator himself.
Ms. Cooke. And as I said, I think----
Ms. Wilson. That this was something. And then I want to ask
this. We met with senators here from Nigeria, senators who
represent different parts of Nigeria, and we met with them in
Nigeria. And they say that they know where the girls are and
there is--is this true? Is there any truth about President
Buhari actively bartering with the appropriate leader of Boko
Haram in exchange for the girls; that they are held captive in
a secluded, secure area in the forest? Is there any truth to
Ms. Cooke. Well, there may be efforts to connect with the
group to negotiate some release. No one of the thousands of
members of Boko Haram that have been captured, of the thousands
of women and girls that have been captured, no one has seen a
Chibok girl. And that is just a remarkable mystery. I think
many people I talk to think that they are broken into much
smaller groups, married away, and possibly in the northern
mountains of Cameroon, in Niger and elsewhere. This is just, it
is a tragic mystery as to where they have gone. I am sure----
Ms. Wilson. Do you think if one of them, do you think that
if they were, just one would appear, if they were married away,
or someone out of all of those girls could have escaped, gotten
back home or went and told someone that they were a Chibok
girl, because that is all I am listening for.
Ms. Cooke. It has not happened.
Ms. Wilson. And I am looking for a mass grave to see where
they all are, because this is----
Ms. Cooke. That has not been found, nor has any----
Ms. Wilson. That has not been found and they have not been
found. So what do we do to sensitize the nation, sensitize
America that this is an issue that is even threatening our
homeland, because we don't know what Boko Haram has in mind,
just like we don't know what ISIS has in mind with influencing
African American boys in our inner cities.
And all of this Internet activity back and forth, and has
anyone looked into that? And it is my understanding that there
is a whole department at the State Department that deals with
Boko Haram, and there are analysts there who just track Boko
Haram. Are you aware of that?
Ms. Cooke. Well, I know that there is an interagency kind
of cooperation group within the State Department and they have
expanded their coordination and presence on Boko Haram. I don't
know the number.
Ms. Wilson. What about the threat to the homeland, to our
homeland from Boko Haram? Just like we are all afraid that ISIS
is going to find its way in the United States, is anyone afraid
that Boko Haram is going to find its way into our inner cities?
Ms. Cooke. I don't want to monopolize, but----
Ms. Friend. Ma'am, I don't----
Ms. Wilson. Has it been discussed at all in your think
Ms. Friend. I don't think there is a huge concern about
that. There of course is, because of the nature of these groups
where you can get one or two operatives through by hook or by
crook, it is always a concern. But I think in a rack and stack
of groups around the world there is less concern that Boko
Haram poses an immediate direct threat to the U.S. homeland,
and more concern about the threat they pose to Nigeria and the
surrounding region. And also, of course, concern about this
newfound connection with the Islamic State and what that really
implies and entails.
One of the members earlier asked me, it was Mr. Higgins,
asked about the threat to Europe. And of course our European
allies are very concerned about a threat from ISIS coming
especially out of Libya, but North Africa in general. So those
are the immediate threats. But of course from my time inside
the executive branch, everyone is always on the lookout for the
metastasization of such groups and for the evolving threat that
Boko Haram could be posing to us, but at this time right now my
understanding is it is less of a concern that they pose a
direct threat to the homeland.
Ms. Wilson. When does it become an imminent threat, when it
Ms. Friend. No, ma'am. I think when you start seeing, and
of course this would be in a closed hearing and I don't have
such information right now, but the kinds of things you would
see would be direct communications between either foreign
nationals in the United States or even American citizens with
either facilitators that are talking to Boko Haram or with Boko
Haram members themselves. I was never on the intel side so I am
not as expert in that kind of thing, but when I saw finished
intelligence that was the kinds of things that you look for.
Ms. Wilson. All right, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Poe. I thank the gentlelady. I want to follow up on a
question she had about what happened to the girls. Have any of
them been ransomed back to their families?
Ms. Cooke. Not to my knowledge and not to the knowledge of
the people I spoke to in Maiduguri and Abuja.
Mr. Poe. And the other question she had was regarding mass
graves of these girls. Has there been any evidence that they
have all been killed or murdered somewhere? I mean, is there
any evidence of that or is it just like you have mentioned, Ms.
Friend, that they have gone different ways, all bad ways, but
they have disappeared in different ways other than this
Ms. Friend. Yes, Mr. Chairman, my understanding from
Amnesty International who I think has done the best work on
looking for mass graves, mass graves have largely been found to
have adult or teenage males in them. There was one that Amnesty
identified outside the Giwa barracks, for example, that was
largely males. Again my speculation is that young girls are
financially valuable and so they would first try either to keep
them themselves for domestic purposes or to sell them again
into trafficking or slavery because they could make money that
way. But again, that is my speculation. No one knows. It is
truly a mystery.
Mr. Poe. Thank you. The chair also has another Member of
Congress here as a guest, Ms. Jackson Lee from Texas, and the
chair will recognize her for her questions.
Ms. Jackson Lee. Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member, let me
thank you very much. And I am going to probably make comments
because I think Mr. Gartenstein-Ross, your pointing back to
policymakers and legislators are very important. There is a
level of frustration and we have joined a lot of colleagues in
our frustration for Boko Haram which is particularly a unique
entity. I went to Boko Haram with a number of members and we
have since gone back to Nigeria and Borno State, the first
time, when the girls were first taken, trying to raise the ante
and before the election of President Buhari and Goodluck
Jonathan was in office.
So I just want--I think your title deals with the security
issue, and I just want just a pointed yes or no of the capacity
of the Nigerian forces to extinguish Boko Haram.
Mr. Gartenstein-Ross. I think their capacity is low. But I
also want to point to the fact that you have multiple nations'
militaries, of them I assess the Nigerians as being one of the
less capable forces.
Ms. Jackson Lee. That is unique, and I don't want to
interrupt you, because we, over the Bush administration and
others, have relied upon the Nigerian forces in years back to
be one of the strongest. So you are now thinking they are
Mr. Gartenstein-Ross. Well, with the specific militaries
going after Boko Haram, I think that they are the most
challenged. One of the problems that the Nigerian military has
today is corruption and lack of morale have made it a worse
force than it was a decade ago.
Ms. Jackson Lee. So President Buhari has not been able to
keep his word that they would be extinguished by December 2015?
Mr. Gartenstein-Ross. Oh, unequivocally not. I mean,
extinguished is a very particular thing. No one would say they
Ms. Jackson Lee. It is a deafening word. As I look at the
map, I see that the countries of Niger, Benin, and Cameroon, as
I understand it Boko Haram has seeped over into those areas. Is
that not accurate?
Mr. Gartenstein-Ross. Yes.
Ms. Jackson Lee. They have crossed over the border and
maybe even to Chad?
Mr. Gartenstein-Ross. Yes.
Ms. Jackson Lee. Because the coloration ends around Nigeria
but they go in and out, do they not?
Mr. Gartenstein-Ross. Yes, it has carried out major attacks
in Niger, Chad and Cameroon.
Ms. Jackson Lee. Right. And so the forces that you were
speaking of is some of these troops from the surrounding
countries. Which would you be to see as seem to be the
Mr. Gartenstein-Ross. I would defer on that in that I would
want to actually try to do an assessment. But just what I can
say is that Nigerians are, their military is particularly
challenged right now, and looking at kind of the battlefield
others have been better. Perhaps one of my colleagues can speak
to military capabilities, comparison of the four.
Ms. Friend. Congresswoman, if I may. You are absolutely
right that the Nigerians used to be one of the best militaries
in Africa. There was at least a decade of underinvestment,
however, in part because of concerns about a military coup. And
so the forces that met with Boko Haram were incredibly under
equipped, ill-trained, their morale was very low.
What Buhari has done since coming into office which he
hasn't even been in for a year yet and these things take a long
time, which is part of what I think the U.S. needs to remember
is a little bit of patience to let them recapitalize. But I
think one of the things he has done that has been particularly
inspiring for the foot soldiers is clean out some of the brass
at the top, say we are going to have a different kind of
command climate. He is himself a retired major general in the
So he has had a real focus on trying to improve morale,
again personnel payment, and then equipment from sort of all
sources he can get to build the forces back up again. But it is
going to take time. So right now it is not the Nigerian
military that you might remember from years past.
Ms. Jackson Lee. Let me conclude, and bells are ringing on
me. Let me conclude, bells are ringing, by saying, and I am
glad you gave me that opening. I do want to acknowledge the
strength of President Buhari's words and I would associate with
So I would like to leave the record--and I want to thank
the chairman. I would like to leave the record with indicating
that the map coloration, the bleeding of Boko Haram is outside
the borders of Nigeria and so they are terrorizing many of the
surrounding countries. I have offered that I believe this is an
African Union issue, a United Nations issue. Comments were made
about Africa. Most of the world is destabilized. The Mideast,
it gives me pause to find outside of Israel one stabilized
country in the Mideast, Jordan, let me not, and there may be
one or two others, but we are facing an unusual terroristic
siege, if you will.
So I guess I would like to leave on the record that Boko
Haram attention needs to be enhanced. It took great pride in
associating itself with ISIL. It is as dangerous or worse as my
colleague has said. And I do believe that we need to put
pressure on Europe.
We have the Africa Command, we have the Leahy rule, and we
need to find some flexibility where we can work with those
resources and those military resources in a way that says that
we mean business in the terms of the security of those areas,
because they will do nothing but grow and continue their siege
of horrific violence. And I thank you all. With that, Mr.
Chairman, I yield back.
Mr. Poe. I thank the gentlelady, and I thank both Ms.
Jackson Lee and Ms. Wilson for their being here today and also
their strong interest in this very tragic situation.
Without objection, the chair will recognize Mr. Keating for
an additional question.
Mr. Keating. Thank you, Mr. Chair. Just one final question
that we had regarding your testimony and just as an overview.
Over 200 girls missing, a mystery, no trace of them alive or
killed, no trace whatsoever. That makes me question the extent
and capabilities of Nigeria's domestic intelligence on the
ground and U.S. intelligence on the ground. Can you comment on
our current capabilities and what some of our needs might be
and both Nigeria's needs in terms of intelligence and our own?
Ms. Friend. I can take a try at it. So immediately after
the Chibok kidnapping, the Department of Defense announced that
it was providing ISR supports which of course is overhead
surveillance, and now there is also ISR support coming out of
Cameroon as well. Again that is overhead surveillance.
On the ground penetration into northern Nigeria by almost
anyone who is not a resident there or part of a military
contingent is very thin. Lots of NGOs can't get in. And so my
sense has always been that our on the ground intelligence has
been really reliant on the Nigerians and on other sources, and
that most of what we do and most of our support to Nigeria has
been through ISR which is a huge technical capability that they
of course do not have.
In terms of intelligence sharing, again what we share has
to be capitalized on by the Nigerians.
Mr. Keating. Thank you. And I would just say that given
Boko Haram's allegiance to ISIL, it is even more important, I
think, the U.S. to have more active intelligence on the ground.
Thank you very much.
Mr. Poe. I thank the gentleman. I thank all y'all for being
here today. All y'all is plural to you all in case you are
wondering. But thank you for the work that you do, and there
may be other questions that members of the committee have for
you more specific and they will file those questions within the
next 5 days and we would appreciate your prompt response to
those questions. And thank you for your expertise in this very
tragic area. Thank you very much. The committee is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 3:19 p.m., the subcommittee adjourned.]
A P P E N D I X
Material Submitted for the RecordNotice deg.
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Material submitted for the record by the Honorable Ted Poe, a
Representative in Congress from the State of Texas, and chairman,
Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade
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