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Nigeria

After Afghanistan, Abuja assesses the new geopolitics and its local choices

President Buhari's government says it wants arms and technology, not troops, from the West but even those might be heavily rationed

There is no comparison between the military deployments and trillions of dollars spent by the United States and its allies in Afghanistan and the West's involvement in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa. That gap is unlikely to change as the debate rages about the West's strategy in Afghanistan and the Middle East (AC Vol 58 No 21, Guns, gas and nukes).

Nigeria's government is well aware of that. Western militaries have sent less than 10,000 troops to the Sahel and are now drawing those down. Aside from the US's drone bases in Niger, Western military aid to the region is in the tens of millions of dollars and probably falling.

That assessment seems to have prompted President Muhammadu Buhari's op-ed piece in London's Financial Times in the wake of the fall of Kabul on 14 August. He argued that Africa was the front line in the battle against Islamist insurgents: 'As Africans, we face our day of reckoning just as some sense the west is losing its will for the fight.'

Adding that 'Africa has enough soldiers', Buhari said that what Nigeria needed most was weapons, drones and access to intelligence and surveillance. Even those requests to Washington are fraught with obstacles.

The US Congress is holding up a consignment of attack helicopters for Nigeria while it reviews the Nigeria's human rights record as Nigeria's military takes on the militants of the Islamic State West Africa Province.

And a recent interview by Nigerian retired Naval Commodore Kunle Olawunmi suggesting that Islamist militants had infiltrated the security services and the political system may reinforce Washington's reluctance to share intelligence with Abuja.

Nigeria is already looking elsewhere – to China, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia – for the equipment and military agreements it wants. The latest country to join the list is Russia (AC Vol 58 No 6, Squaring the triangle).

Officials in Abuja say that a defence agreement with Moscow covering new equipment and military training will help them defeat ISWAP (AC Vol 62 No 10, The northern nexus). President Buhari originally expressed interest in such a pact with Russia at a Russia-Africa summit hosted by President Vladimir Putin in 2019.

But the timing of the deal looks significant in the wake of post-Afghanistan geopolitics.



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