The U.S administration is seeking to approve a sale of as many as 12 A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircrafts to Nigeria to aid its battle against the extremist group Boko Haram, U.S. officials said.
The officials said while speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the administration’s plans in a vote of confidence on President Muhammadu Buhari’s drive to reform the country’s corruption-tainted military.
Washington also is dedicating more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets to the campaign against the Islamist militants in the region and plans to provide additional training to Nigerian infantry forces.
The possible sale which the officials said was favoured within the U.S. administration but is subject to review by Congress underscores the deepening U.S. involvement in helping governments in North and West Africa fight extremist groups.
U.S. Navy Vice Admiral, Michael Franken, a Deputy Commander of the Pentagon’s Africa Command, told a Washington forum last week that there now are 6,200 U.S. troops most of them Special Operations Forces, operating from 26 locations on the continent.
The widening U.S. military cooperation is a political victory for Mr. Buhari, who took office last year pledging to crack down on the rampant corruption that has undermined the armed forces in Africa’s most populous country.
“The Buhari administration I think has really reenergized the bilateral relationship in a fundamental way,” another U.S. official said.
The previous Nigerian government of Goodluck Jonathan had scorned the U.S for blocking arms sales partly because of human rights concerns. It also criticized Washington for failing to speed the sharing of intelligence.
The souring relations hit a low at the end of 2014 when U.S. military training of Nigerian forces was abruptly halted.
That is changing under Mr. Buhari, whose crackdown on corruption has led to a raft of charges against top national security officials in the previous government.
“Buhari made it clear from the get-go that his number one priority was reforming the military to defeat Boko Haram and he sees us as part of that solution,” a second U.S. official said.