WASHINGTON -- The United States has handed over six peacekeeping security vehicles to the Cameroonian armed forces in order to help combat Boko Haram, a terrorist organization originating in Nigeria, a US Africa Command spokesman confirmed.
Boko Haram has since spread its violent insurgency into Cameroon as well as Chad and Niger.
US Navy Lt. Cmdr. Anthony Falvo said the vehicles were transferred through the State Department to the Cameroonian military Armed Forces in Yaoundé on Oct. 16 in order to assist in the regional peacekeeping operations.
President Barack Obama also announced last week that the US would deploy up to 300 personnel for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations to Cameroon. About 145 personnel are already on the ground to set up a location from where ISR platforms will deploy and to train Cameroonian forces, according to Pat Barnes, the Washington DC spokesman for AFRICOM.
Boko Haram and other organizations have "ramped up their violent activities" in the region, Barnes said. Providing vehicles and more troops is part of a larger international effort to stop the spread of violent extremist organizations in West Africa, he added.
While ISR missions in the region are not new, the increased cooperation with Cameroonian security forces has prompted AFRICOM "to study the viability of ISR flights from a temporary location in Cameroon," Barnes said.
"The results of these ISR flights will better enable African partners to secure their borders against violent/illegal activities disrupting our common desire for stability in the region," he said. "Most importantly, all information collected by US unarmed remotely piloted aircraft is used to support international counter-violent extremist organization operations."
Barnes noted the deployment does not replace the forces previously operating in Chad or the current group in Niger. "This deployment is totally separate and distinct," he said.
The Defense Department has about 250 personnel in Niger and 85 personnel in Chad conducting missions that include training and ISR, according to Barnes.