Nigeria: What U.S. Rescue Mission in Nigeria Exposed

27 November 2020

The recent United States rescue mission, on Nigerian territories, where a team of US elite commandos rescued one Philip Walton, an American citizen, from kidnappers made headlines in many countries around the world including Nigeria, of course.

The US Defence Department announced the successful early-morning rescue operation, which took place barely 96 hours after Walton's kidnapping in Massalata, a village in southern Niger near the border with Nigeria.

As a typical US clandestine operation, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had tracked the kidnappers through the signals of their mobile phones while the US "Marine Special Operations elements in Africa helped locate him" as reported by ABC News.

Based on that intelligence about 30 US commandos were, according to The New York Times, "parachuted into the remote area where the kidnappers had taken Walton early Saturday morning. They hiked about three miles until they came upon the captors' small encampment. An intense but brief gunfight followed in which one captor escaped. Walton was not harmed and whisked from the camp to a makeshift landing zone where a U.S. helicopter brought him to safety."

The US conducts daring clandestine operations in many countries without necessarily the knowledge of their respective governments, thanks to its world's most sophisticated espionage technology and the world's best-trained and best-equipped undercover operatives and commandos.

Even when it conducts such an operation in a supposedly friendly country, many a time, the US only informs the government of the country when the operation has been done already. Also, even in the event when it's absolutely unavoidable to involve the government in some stages of the process, the US operatives would manage it in a way that the government concerned wouldn't necessarily figure out what was going on exactly until the operation has been done.

Sometimes, the US claims that the operation was conducted in coordination with the country where the operation has been done to save it the embarrassment of dealing with its aftermath.

Since the beginning of the outgoing Trump administration, it has "rescued over 55 hostages and detainees in more than 24 countries" according to the outgoing President. Of course, some operations fail and sometimes the US runs out of options but to reluctantly negotiate or even pay ransom for the release of its kidnapped citizens in foreign lands.

Regardless of the legality or otherwise of such operations, they suggest how a serious-minded government prioritises the security, wellbeing and other interests of its citizens at any cost. They suggest the extent to which any responsible government can go to save and protect the lives of its citizens.

Now, though the US claimed that its recent rescue operation in Nigeria was conducted with the aid of Niger and Nigerian governments, that wasn't necessarily the case. And even if it did indeed involve Nigerian authorities in the process, the Nigerian government didn't manage its involvement the way any responsible government with its interests in mind would have done.

If it were elsewhere, the government would have demanded, as a precondition for its cooperation, that the rescue operation equally target other kidnappers' campsite to simultaneously rescue many kidnapped Nigerians languishing out there.

Yet, while the Nigerian government squandered that opportunity, it also never showed the slightest shame that it has effectively left its citizens to the mercy of kidnappers while another country rescued its kidnapped citizen on its (Nigerian) own territories. After all, Nigerians have resigned themselves to their fate in the face of government failure to protect them from bandits, terrorists and kidnappers.

A recent incident involving a security patrol team and a group of relatives on their way to pay ransom for the release of their relatives who had been kidnapped among other Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) students while travelling to Lagos represented that miserable situation.

One of the relatives was quoted by the Daily Trust narrating that "We met with security agents who were patrolling the area while on our way and they asked us where we were going to because it was late at night. We told them we were going on our way to pay ransom for the release of our relatives and the security agents wished us good luck" (Daily Trust, November 23, 2020).

Even in the absence of any grounds for comparison between the US and Nigeria in terms of military, intelligence-gathering and processing capabilities, no one can rightly excuse the ineptitude of the Nigerian government in its supposed tackling of bandits and kidnappers unleashing misery across particularly in the northern part of the country. Because the criminals operate with basic communication technology and maintain a consistent hence predictable modus operandi.

Besides, their typical manoeuvre after kidnapping people is always to hike along with the victims in the nighttime for days across the bush while hiding for the whole daytime apparently on the assumption that they cannot be detected from the sky in the nighttime. They are too clueless to realise that they are actually more exposed to aerial detection in the nighttime than the daytime.

From whatever angle one looks at the recent US rescue mission in Nigeria, one observes the urgent need for Nigerian defence, security and intelligence strategists to prioritise intelligence-based strategies in tackling the activities of kidnappers, bandits and terrorists in the country. Such strategies are by far more effective than the current conventional personnel-intensive combat strategies.

There was equally a display of inexcusable diplomatic naivety in Nigeria's supposed cooperation with the US in conducting the operation without apparently anything in return.

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