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2002-02-01 09:56:00
Embassy Abuja
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						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.