US embassy cable - 02ABUJA318


Identifier: 02ABUJA318
Wikileaks: View 02ABUJA318 at
Origin: Embassy Abuja
Created: 2002-02-01 09:56:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 ABUJA 000318 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/01/2012 
Classified by Ambassador Howard F. Jeter; Reasons 1.5 (b/d). 
1. (C) SUMMARY: Operation Focus Relief Phase III (OFR P3), 
which trained three Nigerian battalions for UNAMSIL, was 
successful far beyond expectations.  Strikingly different 
from Phase I of the program, Phase III was successful because 
of renewed diplomatic efforts, because of personnel changes 
in the military coupled with reinvigorated civilian 
leadership in the GON, and because of extremely professional 
and dedicated Special Forces troops.  It is critical at this 
positive juncture to reinforce success with additional 
train-and-equip programs.  END SUMMARY. 
2. (C) Myriad problems plagued Phase 1 of Operation Focus 
Relief in Nigeria.  While reports of the behavior and bearing 
of Phase 1 troops in Sierra Leone are largely positive, 
particularly when compared to previous iterations of Nigerian 
peacekeeping, completing Phase 1 felt like the removal of 
several teeth without novocaine.  The military, led by 
Lieutenant General Malu, was uncooperative and obstructive; 
false complaints of not being well-briefed and not having 
approved the training and equipment package were used to 
delay the program.  Tendentious news of the program leaked to 
the media by Malu and his associates prompted unfavorable 
editorial comment and conspiracy theories.  Pressure from 
Malu on subordinate elements of the Army meant to delay or 
even derail the program, for example, slowed human rights 
vetting for one battalion.  This led to the loss of several 
weeks of training.  It was only because the DATT literally 
pulled the list of names to be vetted out of the hands of a 
Division Staff Officer that vetting was completed. 
3. (C) The April 2001 OFR roundtable meeting arranged to 
resolve the outstanding issues that had led to Nigeria 
slipping from Phase 2 to Phase 3 exemplified these problems. 
Minister of Defense Danjuma did his best to bring agreement 
between USG requirements for force protection and the purpose 
of the program and LTG Malu's complaints, but was decidedly 
unwilling to order his Chief of Army Staff to stand-down. 
(COMMENT:  Due to years of military rule, real civilian 
oversight of the military has been slow in developing. 
President Obasanjo and Minister Danjuma strongly supported 
the program, but Danjuma, and even the Chief of Defense 
Staff, Admiral Ibrahim Ogohi, carefully avoided confrontation 
with the Army Chief.  END COMMENT.)  Ultimately, Danjuma was 
able to identify enough middle ground (on basing issues, 
equipment and training) for Phase 3 to proceed in Nigeria, 
but concerns remained that similar delaying tactics would 
resurface.  (DATT COMMENT: In the end, Malu's untenable 
position, that Nigerian soldiers were already trained and 
superior to U.S. soldiers, was forgotten.  Training, once an 
almost forbidden term, is now the term of choice for the 
Nigerian Army.  They cannot get enough.  END DATT COMMENT.) 
effort renewed with the April meeting, coupled with the 
appointment of three new Ministers of State for Defense (a 
Deputy Minister for each service) began the process of 
putting OFR on the right track.  OFR was repeatedly at the 
top of the Ambassador's talking points with interlocutors. 
The DCM, DATT and PolMilOff had multiple meetings on OFR with 
the Minister of Defense, Army Minister, Chief of Defense 
Staff, Chief of Army Staff, civilian and military staff level 
officers and others.  The Ambassador regularly addressed 
OFR-related issues in his calls on President Obasanjo and 
National Security Advisor Aliyu Mohammed.  Moreover, courtesy 
calls on the new Chief of Air Staff and Chief of Army Staff 
were used as venues to establish agreement on important 
aspects of the program, such as the use of the Abuja Air Base 
for the Forward Operating Base.  The Embassy's Public Affairs 
Section set in motion a media workshop, held in Abuja in 
June, that brought together nearly all of the field-grade 
public relations officers of the three services and defense 
correspondents.  The final exercise, led by the Embassy PAO, 
focused on planning for joint public affairs work for OFR P3. 
 Numerous letters were sent to Embassy interlocutors, from 
the President down, to ensure that discussions were recorded 
and decisions noted.  Conversations were held with customs 
and other logistics-focused agencies to ensure smooth 
operation of the program.  This time consuming and strenuous 
effort was carried out to guarantee that Phase 3 got on track 
and stayed there. 
5. (C) Danjuma's and Batagarawa's task was made significantly 
easier when President Obasanjo retired the three Service 
Chiefs in June 2001, including Chief of Army Staff LTG Malu. 
This action was publicly described as a "normal retirement," 
but it was clear that his forced retirement was, in large 
part, due to Malu's insubordination towards the civilian 
regime.  Malu's absence allowed for a sea change in the 
bilateral military relationship.  Cooperation improved 
tremendously.  Increased access to Defense Ministry players 
and Army leaders allowed for better communication, and 
pernicious attitudes in discussions disappeared.  The search 
for solutions to obstacles overtook the search for obstacles 
to solutions.  For example, no longer did the Army complain 
about the training and equipment package; instead, they 
reasonably suggested that Nigerian Training and Doctrine 
Command participate at the three training sites, to adjust 
training if necessary and to inculcate it into doctrine if 
proven useful. 
6. (C) Execution of Phase 3 quickly became a cooperative 
venture between the GON, Nigerian military and USG.  The new 
Chief of Army Staff, LTG Alexander Ogomudia, warmly welcomed 
the 3SFG 3 Battalion Commander during his initial visit, 
approved the POI, addressed concerns of his staff, and even 
suggested a joint U.S.-Nigerian Army Training and Doctrine 
Command (TRADOC) visit to the Phase 1 troops in Sierra Leone. 
 After stating he had not approved participation of one of 
the three battalions selected for Phase III, he immediately 
reversed course and approved their inclusion when he was 
informed that camp construction had already begun. 
7. (C) Phase 1 also clearly sent a message to the Nigerian 
soldiers that much could be gained from Operation Focus 
Relief.  That message carried, and throughout OFR Phase 3, 
the GON and Nigerian Army were supportive and flexible: 
increasing force protection to the U.S. trainers; providing 
space for a forward operating base; being responsive and 
supportive of medical evacuation contingencies. 
8. (C) While everything appeared to be moving in the right 
direction on the diplomatic front, OFR Phase 3 could not have 
been successful without the immense effort put forward by the 
DATT and his team.  As COR for the PA&E contract, and Embassy 
POC for the 3rd Battalion 3rd Special Forces Group, the DATT 
oversaw base camp construction and ensured smooth air and 
ground flow of equipment and personnel.  He also established 
new and strong relationships with Army Operations leadership 
to ensure that the necessary individuals were constantly 
engaged (often a problem in Nigeria). 
9. (C) Public affairs coordination went smoothly between PAS 
and the Director of Defense Information.  The Embassy's press 
release on the tent camps being constructed for the program 
by PA&E -- aimed at disarming the OFR P1-type rumors of a 
"secret base" -- was praised by leading Nigerian newspapers 
as unusually open and detailed.  After September 11, 
ambitious plans for public affairs were trimmed for a few 
weeks in the interest of security and caution.  In late 
November, PAS organized a highly successful Nigerian "media 
day" so that local journalists could observe mortar training 
on the range at Kachia.  The three graduations were also open 
to, and well covered by, the media.  Stories on OFR written 
by Jim Fisher-Thompson of IIP's Washington File, were widely 
run by editors. 
10. (C) VERY SPECIAL FORCES: Finally, we cannot say enough 
about the professionalism of the 3rd Special Forces Group, 
led by Colonel Mark Phelan and, here in Nigeria, 3rd 
Battalion led by Lieutenant Colonel Tim Sherwood.  While the 
American and Nigerian ducks were in a row for execution of 
the program, Phase 3 ultimately depended on the work of the 
trainers, and their success in establishing camaraderie with 
the Nigerian battalions.  (No one at the graduation ceremony 
in Serti, watching the Nigerian soldiers do push-ups in full 
gear as a salute to the American Special Forces trainers 
could doubt that strong bonds had been formed.) 
11. (C) LTC Sherwood's calm demeanor and thoughtfulness, 
critical to establishing sound working relationships in this 
culture, epitomized the best of leadership by example.  By 
taking the time to call on state, local and traditional 
leaders at each of the training sites, the Ambassador, DATT 
and LTC Sherwood improved force protection for the American 
soldiers.  But this effort also generated understanding and 
goodwill about USG intent in having American forces on 
Nigerian soil.  This effort was so well received that the 
Emir of Ilorin invited the SF soldiers to visit him "anytime" 
for any reason, and the Local Government Chairman in Serti 
hosted a party for the trainers for which he donated a cow. 
12. (C) Two liaison NCO's (LNOs) assigned to the Embassy 
arrived before the start of Phase 3, and assisted the Embassy 
with the administrative and logistics burdens of the program. 
 Moreover, becoming integral parts of the Embassy, which is a 
challenging cultural experience in of itself, these two 
individuals made a constant effort to assist with 
Embassy-specific efforts, such as handling diplomatic 
flights.  Working hand-in-hand with the DATT and others, the 
LNOs played a key role in executing Phase 3. 
13. (C) Phase 3 was unfortunately marked by a Light Anti-Tank 
Weapon (LAW) accident and a spate of malaria.  Military 
deployments have dangers, and despite best efforts, accidents 
happen.  Housing SF troops in tents, unlike the hotels of 
Phase 1, increased force protection from some threats, but 
made them more susceptible to malaria.  However, because of 
the able SF leadership on the ground, the sick and injured 
were quickly treated.  Accolades go to the Forward Surgical 
Team (FST) of the 30th Medical Brigade, who not only ably 
treated the 3rd Battalion personnel, but also extended 
medical assistance and taught two first responder courses to 
the American and British Missions.  Demonstrating why the 
U.S. military is held in such high esteem, the U.S. soldiers 
of OFR Phase 3 advanced USG goals tremendously. 
14. (C) The qualitative improvement in the capabilities of 
the participating Nigerian battalions, coupled with changes 
in the GON and strenuous diplomatic efforts have helped bring 
about a sea change in the bilateral relationship.  The 
program also substantiated that the Nigerian Army must go 
through significant change before it is a viable peacekeeping 
force and an integral part of Nigerian democracy (part of the 
reason, no doubt, that the hubris-driven Malu objected to the 
program).  OFR units have now been selected by the GON as 
model units to show the international community a new side to 
the generally tarnished image of the Nigerian military. 
Speaking during the graduation ceremony in Ilorin on December 
13, Ambassador Jeter reminded the 222 Battalion that, "Your 
behavior will be used to measure the legitimacy of the 
Nigerian Army.  That legitimacy will be based on your effort 
to be a force for good, a force for peace, and a force for 
the welfare of your people under a democratic dispensation." 
Echoing his words, Minister of Defense Danjuma told the 222 
Battalion that they would be Ambassadors to Sierra Leone 
representing their Army, their Government and the Nigerian 
people, and were expected to act appropriately and honorably. 
15. (C) Because of the impact of this program, the GON and 
Nigerian military are now actively seeking more OFR.  At all 
three Phase 3 graduations, a mix of battalion, brigade, 
division, Army HQ and political leaders publicly urged the 
USG to train and equip more battalions.  President Obasanjo 
has asked that five more battalions receive OFR-type 
training, and the Army has indicated that they would like 
additional training packages to start as soon as January 2002. 
16. (C) We are confident that the Phase 3 battalions will be 
significantly better than those trained in Phase 1 (which 
were a large improvement over non-OFR Nigerian battalions), 
largely due to the active pursuit by the GON and Nigerian 
Services of what the USG has to offer.  Similar training and 
equipping for Nigerian battalions, with perhaps a longer and 
more developed POI, could continue at a reasonable cost with 
great additional benefit.  It is too early to determine how 
long the OFR training will last with the Phase 1 and 3 
battalions, and what impact specific training, such as 
training on human rights, will have on these units as they 
return to Nigeria or move on to other deployments.  However, 
it is clear that without continued engagement, their skills 
will decay.  OFR was designed solely for the purpose of 
building sub-regional capacity to deal decisively with the 
RUF.  However, as a program, OFR has resulted in other 
significant benefits to our bilateral relationship, and to 
Nigerian governmental and military reform.  If engagement is 
not maintained, a grand opportunity will be lost. 
17. (C) DATT COMMENT: Planning continues to sustain OFR unit 
skills through the JCET and MTT programs, although 
"son-of-OFR" would be the best approach and most decisive. 
Further engagement is critical.  USDAO suggests a 
reconsideration of the decision not to continue with OFR. 
Sustaining the capabilities of the OFR units is a 
Congressional interest item, underscored on three separate 
occasions by Congressional staffers who were briefed by the 
18. (C) DATT COMMENT CONT: Consideration should be given to 
expanding the force of two battalions and adding a command 
and control element (e.g. two brigade headquarters), and a 
logistical capability (e.g. a support group).  In Nigeria, 
they are ready to accept any U.S. proposal.  OFR offers an 
opportunity to build capacity not only for Nigeria, but for 
ECOWAS as well.  There also is an important human rights 
dimension to this proposal.  A well-equipped, trained and 
sustained Nigerian Army is less likely to commit the 
atrocities of the past.  Thus, for myriad reasons, 
reinforcing success with further OFR-type train and equip 
programs is a must. END DATT COMMENT. 

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