Remarks by Ambassador James F. Entwistle Joint Combined Exchange Training Opening Ceremony

Jaji, Nigeria February 17, 2016

 (as prepared for delivery)

Good morning.  It’s my pleasure to be here this morning.

As President Buhari recently stated, Boko Haram’s “reign of terror will only succeed if peace-loving people choose to remain idle.  But I am confident that through our collective efforts, we will defeat this scourge and restore peace.”  This event is a reminder of what good people and collective efforts can achieve.

Today, we bear witness to years of hard work and cooperation as we commence training a second Nigerian Battalion.  This ceremony marks a significant milestone in our joint efforts.  Nigeria and the United States have worked together to battle the common scourge of terrorism and extremist ideology for many years.  This battalion will be a tangible reminder of our combined efforts to stamp out radicalism and violent extremism, in Nigeria, the Lake Chad Basin, and throughout the continent.

As we inaugurate this training, we should reflect on the long-term commitments we have undertaken for one another.  The Nigerian-U.S. partnership extends beyond the immediacy of what we see here today.  Many of your leaders, both military and civilian, have trained in U.S. institutions.  Our office of security cooperation works daily with its Nigerian counterparts in coordinating efforts to improve joint interoperability between our forces.  We continue to assist in ways big and small to expand Nigeria’s military capacity and professionalism.  This training evolution exemplifies the mutually beneficial outcomes that happen when we collaborate.

Once fully trained and engaged, the 145th Battalion will integrate into existing efforts in the northeast and be a force multiplier to ensure that Nigerians can return to their homes without fear of persecution and begin to rebuild their communities in safety.  The defeat of Boko Haram and its affiliates will further permit the full return of internally displaced persons across the northeast and help re-establish an economy that can benefit all of Nigeria.  Through your efforts, Nigerians in the north and across the country will see that the Army is working to defend human rights, protect its citizens, and provide safety and security for an area that has seen many challenges.

This new battalion will play an important role in a multi-faceted approach to combatting Boko Haram and other violent extremists, but the military alone cannot solve the problem of terrorism.  We must look beyond military efforts and work with our development partners to stabilize and rebuild the region.  The only solution to ending violent extremism is a lasting commitment to socio-economic development from the Government of Nigeria and international actors, public and private, to secure the long-term stability of the region.  And my government is doing all it can to support the internally displaced population until it can begin to return home in safety and security.

It is also our hope that the 145th represents the beginning of a much wider effort across West Africa to coordinate permanent efforts with neighboring countries against the scourge of terrorism.  Countries of the Lake Chad Basin must continue to work in unison on security efforts denying safe havens for those elements that threaten the security of the region and its people.  Nigeria is on the front line against terrorism and is showing the region, Africa, and the world that its efforts are working and need the continued cooperation and support from the international community.

Leadership in any struggle is a tremendous responsibility, but we are confident that this battalion, the Nigerian Army, and government will continue the hard fight against terrorism, bring peace to the northeast, and work to improve the safety and security of the population.