The President of Nigeria has requested that the US government consider relocation of US Africa Command headquarters to Africa. President Muhammadu Buhari made the suggestion during a virtual meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on 27 April.
In a Twitter post following the meeting, Buhari said that the suggestion was made due to the “growing security challenges in West & Central Africa, Gulf of Guinea, Lake Chad region & the Sahel”, adding that while “Nigeria and her security forces remain resolutely committed to containing security challenges in our nation and region, and addressing their root causes”, the “support of important and strategic partners like the United States of course cannot be overstated”. He continued that Nigeria would continue to enhance its collaboration “in all forms” with its allies and strategic partners, in order to achieve “greater security for all concerned”.
The request comes shortly after an 25 April attack by Islamic State West Africa on a Nigerian Army base in Mainok, Borno State. The terrorist group claims to have killed 14 Nigerian Army soldiers in the attack, said to have been conducted using previously captured Nigerian Army MRAPs, and has released photographs of captured weapons and ammunition taken from base stockpiles. A number of vehicles abandoned were also captured, including three pickup trucks, a T-55 tank and a BTR-4E armored personnel carrier and three Isotrex Legion MRAPs. ISWA fighters took the MRAPs and burned the other vehicles, as well as the base.
Further compounding the setback are reports that the Nigerian Air Force mistakenly attacked Nigerian Army soldiers moving to reinforce the base against the ISWA attackers, killing multiple soldiers. Subsequent airstrikes are said to have been more accurate, forcing an ISWA retreat. The Nigerian Air Force has since stated that it is opening an investigation into the reports of friendly fire, saying on Twitter that “the general public will be duly updated on the alleged incident”.
Despite the supply of newer and more sophisticated hardware like the captured MRAPs and tanks and fire support vehicles from China, the added firepower cannot compensate for the Nigerian government’s continued poor strategy and tactics in its campaign against ISWA and Boko Haram. With the US already involved in training Nigerian Army troops, the rather slim odds of an AFRICOM move to the continent will be, in any case, a symbolic gesture that will not, and should not be expected to rectify the structural issues with the Nigerian government’s overall counterinsurgency approach.