The Magazine

Al Qaeda’s Nigeria Franchise

Why Hillary Clinton’s State Department downplayed Boko Haram.

May 26, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 35 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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Boko Haram itself was finally designated by the State Department in November 2013. The designation recognized Boko Haram’s “links to” AQIM and responsibility “for thousands of deaths in northeast and central Nigeria over the last several years including targeted killings of civilians.” And in its annual Country Reports on Terrorism, published on April 30 of this year, Foggy Bottom again noted that Boko Haram “at times has received assistance, including funds and training, from” AQIM.

Despite these well-documented links between Boko Haram and al Qaeda’s network, there are still some who try to play disconnect the dots between the two. A key argument made at the State Department was that Boko Haram is purely a “local” group that shouldn’t be lumped in with al Qaeda’s “global” jihad. Such games do not help America craft sound counterterrorism policy. They obfuscate what is plain to see.

Even Hillary Clinton has said as much. During congressional testimony in January 2013, Rep. Tom Cotton asked Secretary Clinton if various jihadists in Africa should be considered al Qaeda. “Whether they call themselves al Qaeda or Boko Haram or Ansar al Sharia, they are all part of the same global jihadist movement,” Clinton responded. Unfortunately, the State Department did not act that way until after her term as secretary of state had ended.

Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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