The Nigerian government has ended a U.S. effort to train a battalion of its troops to fight Boko Haram, an Islamist terrorist group that is responsible for abducting hundreds of schoolgirls earlier this year, according to the State Department.
“We regret premature termination of this training, as it was to be the first in a larger planned project that would have trained additional units with the goal of helping the Nigerian Army build capacity to counter Boko Haram,” State Department spokesman Rodney Ford said in an email to Military Times on Monday.
Ford did not say exactly what prompted Nigeria to end the training mission.
“The U.S. government will continue other aspects of the extensive bilateral security relationship, as well as all other assistance programs, with Nigeria,” he said. “The U.S. government is committed to the long tradition of partnership with Nigeria and will continue to engage future requests for cooperation and training.”
It’s unclear why the training partnership has ended.
However, the move follows the recent U.S. refusal to sell Cobra helicopters to Nigeria. The transfer was denied over concerns that Nigeria couldn’t use and maintain the Cobras, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on Nov. 12.
This decision drew criticism from Nigeria’s ambassador to the U.S., who said it would hinder the country’s efforts to bring down Boko Haram.
In May, the U.S. Army posted a story on its official website announcing that soldiers and special operators would train a Nigerian 650-man Ranger battalion to fight Boko Haram, marking the first time that U.S. troops would train their African counterparts for a mission other than peacekeeping. The story was no longer online on Monday.
“It is not peacekeeping — it is every bit of what we call decisive action, meaning those soldiers will go in harm’s way to conduct counterinsurgency operations in their country to defeat a known threat,” Col. John Ruffing, chief of US Army Africa’s Security Cooperation Division, said in the story.