A team of less than 10 U.S. military members will arrive in Nigeria in coming days to be part of the coordination cell to assist that country in the search for more than 200 school girls taken by an Islamic terror group three weeks ago. A Pentagon spokesman said there are no plans right now to conduct a broader military operation in Nigeria.
The White House announced Tuesday that an inter-agency coordination cell would arrive in Nigeria to provide any assistance in the search.
According to Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren, the team, mostly from US Africa Command in Germany, will arrive in Nigeria in the next few days. Warren said this military team will be part of the larger interagency team that will assess what further assistance can be provided to Nigeria.
This larger team will also include members from the State Department, the Justice Department and the FBI, Warren said "we're looking at this as a crisis response to a hostage situation."
Warren said the military team will bring a range of expertise including communications, logistics and intelligence that could be helpful in finding the missing girls.
The spokesman was clear that the military team is being sent for coordination and assessment, "at this time we are not considering a US operation to rescue the girls."
When asked if U.S. Air Force Predator drones based in neighboring Niger might be used for the search Warren said "we are discussing with the Nigerian government any type of information sharing arrangements we can work out." The drones have been operating out of Niger since last year to assist French forces sent to that country to combat an Islamic insurgency that threatened to overthrow the government of Niger.
There are already about 70 military personnel in Nigeria, about 50 of them are normally assigned to the embassy's Defense attaché office, the office of security cooperation and embassy security. An additional 20 Marines have been in Nigeria for previously scheduled amphibious exercises.