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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
01ABUJA2797 2001-11-02 07:33:00 SECRET Embassy Abuja
Cable title:  

NIGERIA'S RISKS IN SUPPORTING US ON AFGHANISTAN

Tags:   PTER ETTC SOCI PINS PREL NI 
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					  S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 ABUJA 002797 

SIPDIS


E.O. 12598: 1.6X6
TAGS: PTER ETTC SOCI PINS PREL NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA'S RISKS IN SUPPORTING US ON AFGHANISTAN

A) Booth-Jeter Email 23OCT01
B) State 170698
C) Abuja 2793


Classified by CDA Andrews; Reasons 1.6X6.




1. (C) Since September 11, the Obasanjo Administration has
lent unequivocal diplomatic support to USG anti-terrorists
efforts, including coalition military operations against Al
Qaeda and its Taliban hosts. This unambiguous support was
not a given. Nigeria, home to Sub-Saharan Africa largest
Muslim population has its own ethno-religious dynamic.
Domestic political expedience would have had Obasanjo hold
his tongue, mute his support, or condemn both the September
11 attacks and our response. However, he did not flinch.
Acting more a statesman than a politician on this issue, he
moved toward what he thought were Nigeria wider, long-
term interests.




2. (C) As a result, Obasanjo and his Administration have
been on the receiving end of a stream of invective from a
small but vocal clique of northern politicians and Islamic
clerics. Some disliked his decision; some simply dislike
him and seek any opportunity to criticize. Obasanjo firm
anti-terrorism stance has had a minimal direct, measurable
impact on internal security thus far (violence in Kano
being the clearest exception). But simmering tensions in
many parts of Nigeria do not need much more heat to boil
over. The President's principled stand also highlighted
the reality of the country preexisting religious divide:
The largely Christian South tends to support U.S. action
while the mostly Muslim North is deeply ambivalent.




3. (C) Depending how our military operations unfold, the
negative rhetoric of Obasanjo militant critics could gain
adherents, grow feet and take to the streets. Further
demonstrations are almost certain and could turn violent,
especially if civilian casualties are perceived to be
increasing sharply as a result of our continuing military
operations. With elections so near and party nominating
conventions even closer, Obasanjo (should he run) will have
to wrestle claims that he kowtowed to American pressure
while ignoring the sensitivities of (the Muslim) half of
Nigeria's population.




4. (C) Against this backdrop, President Obasanjo arrives in
the U.S. to confer with President Bush about counter-
terrorism. We must keep these factors in mind as we seek
to forge greater cooperation between Washington and Abuja
on this paramount issue.




5. (C) With statements condemning the attacks and
supporting our military action, Nigeria has run the field
on what it can do as a matter of unilateral public
diplomacy. Thus, our strategy for counter-terrorism
cooperation with Nigeria must rest on three columns.
First, we must encourage Nigeria toward concrete unilateral
actions that actualize its public statements. Second,
Nigeria should play a leading role in multilateral fora,
in Africa and beyond. Third, we should minimize actions
that might spark internal unrest in Nigeria attributable to
GON support for our efforts. It would be a blow to our
objective to build an anti-terrorism front in Africa if his
strong support for us weakened Obasanjo internally. It
could scare other leaders and embolden our adversaries.




--------------------------


CONCRETE ACTION AT HOME


--------------------------






6. (C) MONEY LAUNDERING: Given Nigeria lax regulatory
scheme, the local financial system is potentially an
attractive haven for terrorist funds. Nigeria must work
hard to seal this sieve. Obasanjo has promised a Financial
Crimes Commission (FCC) and an omnibus money-laundering law
to replace the current law that only governs drug related
laundering. We should accede to Obasanjo request for
assistance in building the FCC and implementing the draft
money laundering legislation (Ref C). We should also send
experts to help the Central Bank of Nigeria's efforts to
identify terrorist bank accounts.




7. (S/NF) INTELLIGENCE SHARING: We are already sharing more
intelligence with the Nigerians than any other African
service. Yet Nigeria's strong support, its importance in
Africa, and the possibility that parts of Africa may be
attractive alternate havens for some terrorists, make a
case for us to consider a higher level of intelligence
sharing. This step would require a political decision in
both capitals.




8. (C) COUNTER-TERRORISM TRAINING: Nigeria police and
overall security apparatus are not trained for counter-
terrorism. We could help Nigeria train a small, sharply-
focused inter-agency unit that could coordinate anti-
terrorism efforts here. This unit could be tasked with
looking for ways of improving counter-terrorism measures
for oil installations. We recognize that establishing
effective inter-agency groups is never easy. Each agency
has its turf and established interests. However, if the
number of agencies is kept to a minimum, this concept could
work. Given our post-September 11 security imperatives and
our long-term energy security concerns, this concept may be
worth exploring.




9. (C) SOFA: A SOFA would likely cause great consternation
within Nigeria, and could cost the GON political capital
that could be more effectively invested elsewhere. Some
alleged before 9/11 that Operation Focus Relief was really
intended to establish bases from which the U.S. could
strike troublesome Muslim countries. OFR is proceeding
smoothly now, and we need to keep it that way. Generally,
the Nigerian public mistrusts mil-to-mil relationships, and
not everyone loves OFR. Seeking a SOFA risks raising many
issues that are best not addressed now. We can get most of
what we want/need without a formal SOFA.




10. (C) ANTI-TERRORISM CONVENTIONS AND MLAT: There is
little cost for the GON to sign and ratify the anti-
terrorism conventions and the MLAT. We should continue to
urge these steps. On this and other points it may be
useful to state that we expect Nigeria to lead Africa, and
certainly West Africa.




11. (C) INVITING AMERICAN MUSLIMS: We should raise with
Nigeria the idea of gathering a team of Muslim notables to
visit the U.S., particularly to see WTC ground zero and
talk to representatives of the Muslim community there.
This might lead to a reciprocal visit. We need to change
the picture many Nigerian Muslims have of the U.S. as anti-
Islamic. They need to understand that the U.S. is an open,
tolerant society that welcomes Muslims.




--------------------------


NIGERIA AKING THE LEAD IN THE REGION


--------------------------






12. (C) We need to press Nigeria to work within the Sub-
Saharan African institutional framework to ensure that
African multilateral institutions, particularly ECOWAS,
support our efforts diplomatically and with practical
steps. Nigeria can also play a useful role beyond Africa
through its active participation in the G-77, D-8, and NAM,
among other organizations.




13. (S/NF) ECOWAS SUMMIT: Nigeria should use its weight to
ensure that counter-terrorism is a focal point on the
agenda for the Summit tentatively set for December. We
would like a strong statement from ECOWAS and would urge
Nigeria to push for all member countries to sign extant
terrorism conventions. ECOWAS should establish a sub-
regional counter-terrorism mechanism. We should be
prepared to have senior intelligence personnel to meet with
ECOWAS counterparts to discuss intelligence sharing and
counter-terrorism training.




14. (C) We should explore with Nigeria and Senegal ways
that Wade Terrorism Initiative can be made useful.
Africa (through the AU or NEPAD), and ECOWAS regionally,
must align their efforts so they become complementary.
Nigeria can and should be expected to lead on both levels.




15. (C) SUDAN: Nigeria participation in the Sudan Peace
Process may provide another avenue to influence Khartoum
regarding its support for terrorism. Nigeria, a broker in
the peace process, has decent relations with the NIF
government. We should work with Nigeria to see how it can
use its role in the peace process and as a leading African
nation to persuade Sudan to wash its hands of supporting
terrorism.




--------------------------


HEARTS AND MINDS


--------------------------






16. (C) Public opinion among Nigeria's Muslims is slowly
turning against us. Those long opposed to us are taking
ever-harder lines. We want to reverse this trend but need
concrete support. We should draw a clearer evidentiary
link between the September 11 attacks and Usama Bin Laden.
This will go far to address the concerns of those who
condemn the attacks but think we pinned them on UBL because
of an anti-Muslim bias. The U.K. FCO website contains much
of the material in reftel B (classified demarche cable),
yet we cannot present this information to Muslim Nigeria as
the USG position. Our silence is viewed in many quarters
as proof of the weakness of our "case." The Department
should review its restriction on dissemination of the
information.




17. (C) Also, we may need to reshape our message regarding
civilian casualties in Afghanistan. While we continue to
assert that civilians are not targets, Nigerians continue
to hear and see news of civilian deaths. For many Nigerian
Muslims, the fact that our stand-off munitions are killing
(Muslim) Afghan civilians, and we know that such unintended
deaths inevitably will result, makes us "terrorists" too.
While it would be easy to dismiss this logic as twisted, we
must understand and respond appropriately to it if we wish
to win hearts and minds. To the extent possible, we need
to explain the steps taken to minimize civilian casualties.
We also need to be more aggressive stating when and if the
Taliban is using the civilian population as a shield. Our
PD regarding USG humanitarian efforts seems to have fallen
off; this needs to be re-energized.
ANDREWS