Authors Note: On October 25, 2006 OurWeekly Publisher and CEO Natalie Cole interviewed former United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Andrew Young. They discussed several topics both local and international. Among the topics was the failure of the United States to intervene in the genocide that was taking place in the Sudan at that time. Ambassador Young responded, “There are several issues when planning covert action in Africa. The primary issue is logistics. The secondary, war is expensive and we had our nose bloodied during the Clinton administration’s involvement in Mogadishu. Lastly, the political culture of Africa can be difficult; you are not only dealing with different political parties, you are dealing with Christians versus Muslims, old tribal issues, and numerous social factors.
“We had a logistic concern whenever the Pentagon would look at Africa.” Young went on to explain how “looking for a group of people is almost impossible when dealing with the continent of Africa, unless they are foreign non-Black troops or non-Black civilians. The best intelligence you can have is boots on the ground, which is a different strategy, it is then a covert operation.”
OurWeekly caught up with Ambassador Young again this week to discuss the kidnapping of the estimated 276 Nigerian school girls, allegedly by Boko Haram militants, on April 14.
Young believes there is still a logistics problem, however, he believes the new formation of Africom (United States Africa Command) will make a difference and somewhat improve, but not solve, the problem.
“When we look at the logistic issues there are plenty—the primary being geography and how technology interprets it when drones are used to seek out humans.”
One of the issues Young was referring to could be the difficulty drone aircraft encounter when detecting thermography—a ground-heat reading used by drones to locate humans while traveling at high altitudes. Thermographs can be blocked by foliage, and suspected areas where the girls might be held, have dense foliage.
“Another concern that I have—that has not yet surfaced—is a law known as the Leahy Amendment,” said Young. “It may complicate any type of joint military operations with Nigeria.”
He is referring to a 1997 law, named after its sponsor, Senator Patrick Leahy—a Democrat from Vermont. The law bars United States forces from working with militaries, or units within them, accused of chronic human rights violations. In the past, U.S. military brass have complained that the law has prevented them from training foreign soldiers. According to news sources in Nigeria, it appears to be limiting what forces on the ground can do to help find the children.
“For example, there is a specific counter-terrorism unit with which we don’t interact in Nigeria because we’re not able to [because of] Leahy,” Young said. “However, we’re not prevented from working with the Nigerian military for those soldiers or units that were not affected, and we are doing human rights training on appropriate use of force with the military for those elements that we can work with.”
With heavy emotion Young asked, “Are you aware the average life span in Nigeria is around 48 years, and the age of the school girls abducted is between 12 and 15? These girls are daughters, sisters, and hopefully they will return home and live on to become mothers and productive women in Nigeria with the years they have left.”