New Telegraph

When ‘Uncle Sam’ came calling

‘Since the beginning of my Administration, we have rescued over 55 hostages and detainees in more than 24 countries. Today’s operation should serve as a stark warning to terrorists and criminal thugs who mistakenly believe they can kidnap Americans with impunity’ -US President Donald Trump tweeting after his country’s Special Forces successfully rescued an American in Nigeria

In the wee hours of last Saturday, Special Forces from the United States’ elite military unit, Navy SEAL Team Six stealthy came into Nigeria and carried out what the Americans called a “high-risk raid” in freeing 27-year-old Philipe Nathan Walton, who had been abducted in neighbouring Niger on October 26 with the gunmen demanding ransom from his relatives. According to reports, the American, who had spent some two years in the Sahel country, where he had been breeding camels, was taken from his farm, where he lives with his wife and daughter, in Massalata in southern Niger at 1.45am.

He had reportedly offered the abductors some $40, which they flatly rejected and decided to move him across the border into Nigeria, believing that they would be safe in the part of the country, in which Boko Haram is still a major force. But they gambled wrongly, failing to realise that they would not be up against Nigerian troops but one of the world’s mightiest military forces in the US army because the person kidnapped was not a Nigerian but an American citizen.

In turning to the Navy SEALS (which incidentally is an acronym for Sea, Air, and Land Teams), the United States has one of the top Special Forces units in the world, whose primary function is to capture or to eliminate high-level targets, or to gather intelligence behind enemy lines.

Part of the US Naval Special Warfare Command, SEAL Team Six was the lead unit, which in the early morning of May 2, 2011, flew into Abbottabad, Pakistan about 35 miles (56 km) from Islamabad and took out the world’s most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden.

Thus the rescue of Walton an ‘unknown’ American by his government has once again shown the wide gulf that exists between our own the ruling class and the US when it comes to the protection of its citizens, which explains why Americans are always proud of “Uncle Sam” whenever it comes to such issues – they know that big man or small man; elite or dregs of society, rich or poor when it comes to adversity the government always has their backs. Sadly, this has been the bane of our country, where virtually everything is looked at from ethnicism.

According to reports in the British media, when news broke of the abduction of 276 Chibok schoolgirls on the night of April 14–15, 2014 the government of David Cameron immediately offered major assistance to President Goodluck Jonathan on how the girls could be recovered.

But in a damning report published by The Guardian on March 4, 2017 the Federal Government allegedly rejected the offer. “In a mission named Operation Turus, the RAF conducted air reconnaissance over northern Nigeria for several months, following the kidnapping of 276 girls from the town of Chibok in April 2014. “The girls were located in the first few weeks of the RAF mission,” a source involved in Operation Turus told the Observer.

“We offered to rescue them, but the Nigerian government declined.” “The girls were then tracked by the aircraft as they were dispersed into progressively smaller groups over the following months,” the source added. The report further says: “Notes from meetings between UK and Nigerian officials, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, also suggest that Nigeria shunned international offers to rescue the girls.

While Nigeria welcomed an aid package and assistance from the US, the UK and France in looking for the girls, it viewed any action to be taken against kidnapping as a ‘national issue’. “Nigeria’s intelligence and military services must solve the ultimate problem,” said Jonathan in a meeting with the UK’s then Africa minister, Mark Simmonds, on May 15, 2014.

Despondently, six years later Nigeria’s intelligence and military services are still trying to “solve the ultimate problem” even though they are now under another government which in campaigning to take over from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2015 had promised to go tough on insurgency and bring the remaining girls home! Incidentally, our own various military and paramilitary outfits have all boasted of having “Special Forces”, which have often been deployed to various hot spots without any corresponding improvement in security in such areas.

Months ago, we were regaled with video footage of Nigeria Air Force (NAF) Special Forces members fast grappling from ropes from helicopters along with their dogs after their graduation last December.

And in August this year, NAF deployed a team of Special Forces troops to the southern part of Kaduna state as part of the government’s efforts to bolster security in northwest Nigeria – unfortunately despite their presence, the killings have not stopped. It is crystal clear that Nigerians were happy and sad with the recent US operation because in one breath, they would love to have such a force in the country, but the successful operation also exposed the weakness of our own so-called Special Forces.

If pictures released during the week of the training for the new squad being set up to replace SARS, the SWAT is anything to go by then, it shows that we clearly have a long way to go, to get a squad we can be proud of.

Some of the people seen should never ever have been anywhere near the unit considering the size of their tummies. See what prospective personnel have to go through before becoming members of the elite US group according to Wikipedia.

“Before getting accepted into Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training, a prospective candidate must pass a certain number of both mental and physical requirements. These tests include: Pre-enlistment medical screening. Then, the candidate must get a SEAL contract bypassing the SEAL Physical Screening Test: 500-yard swim in 12:30, 50 push-ups in 2 minutes, 50 sit-ups in 2 minutes, 10 consecutive pull-ups in 2 minutes, and a 1.5-mile run in 10:30.

“Candidates receiving a passing score may then be admitted into training to become Navy SEALs. SEAL training is extremely rigorous. The attrition rate fluctuates, but averages at about 80 per cent. The average candidate spends over a year in a series of formal training courses before being awarded the Special Warfare Operator Naval Rating and the Navy Enlisted Classification (NEC) 5326 Combatant Swimmer (SEAL) or, in the case of commissioned naval officers, the designation Naval Special Warfare (SEAL) Officer.”

From the above, it is quite clear that we really have a long way to go to get the kind of specialist unit we can all be proud of. Until then, all we can only do is watch with envy as ‘Uncle Sam’s’ Special Forces continue to rescue their citizens and steal the limelight.

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