The fate of more than 270 schoolgirls kidnapped by an outlaw Muslim group in northeastern Nigeria has wracked the conscience of people throughout the world, including many Americans.
The fact that the government of Nigeria, with 130,000 security forces, has not seemed to be engaged in an effort to recover the girls three weeks after the attack on their school is almost as disturbing as their abduction. Also appalling was the order Monday by the wife of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan to arrest the women who met with her to protest government inaction.
The offer Tuesday by the U.S. and British governments to assist the Nigerians in trying to recover the girls from Boko Haram, the violent Islamist group that has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, is an appropriate humanitarian response and should be lauded. At the same time, U.S. and British officials should in no way relieve the Nigerians of their responsibility for the fate of the girls.
Any rescue operation would face difficulties posed by the nature of the remote countryside in which the girls were abducted. A second problem is that the region borders on three countries, Cameroon, Chad and Niger, to which the students may have been transported in the past three weeks. Another hurdle is that Nigeria’s security forces are divided into factions, including Islamists who might not want to confront Boko Haram.
What America can do is provide drone or satellite surveillance of the area where the kidnap victims might be.
Another role for the United States could be in coordinating international efforts, involving Nigeria and the three neighboring states, in a united effort to recover the girls.
Violent conflicts can take a terrible toll, but targeting children for abduction, assault and possible sale is an egregious crime against humanity.