US officials on Thursday said “there is no evidence that Boko Haram has received significant operational support or financing from Islamic State (IS)”.
An official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in Washington, said more than a year after the group’s pledge of allegiance, it has no link with IS.
He added that after Boko Haram killed more than two dozen soldiers in Niger last week, it claimed the attack in the name of Islamic State-West Africa Province, a title meant to tell the world that it was an arm of the Syria-based extremist group.
The official suggested that Boko Haram’s loyalty pledge had so far mostly been a branding exercise designed to boost its international Jihadi credentials, attract recruits and appeal to the IS leadership for assistance.
He said the US view of Boko Haram, which won global infamy for its 2014 kidnapping of 276 school girls, as a locally-focused, homegrown insurgency likely to keep the group more to the margins of the US fight against Islamic State in Africa.
The official said US military’s attention was largely centred on Libya, home to Islamic State’s strongest affiliate outside the Middle East and where the US carried out air strikes.
He said “no such direct US intervention is currently being contemplated against Boko Haram.”
“If there is no meaningful connection between ISIL and Boko Haram and we haven’t found one so far, then there are no grounds for US military involvement in West Africa other than assistance and training,” he said.
Another official referred to it as an African fight and US could only assist.
The official said “it is not American fight, rather, it is an African fight and we can assist them, but it’s their fight.”
A senior US official said securities were closely watching for any increased threat to Americans from Boko Haram and any confirmation of media reports of deepening ties with IS.
He said “in spite of suffering a series of setbacks, Boko Haram remains lethal.”
“It launched its deadliest raid in over a year last week, killing 30 soldiers and forcing 50,000 people to flee when it took over the Niger town of Bosso last week.”
The official added that the military action against ISIL in Iraq and Syria was conducted under legislation Congress passed after the September 11, 2001, attacks and authorised the use of American military power against “those responsible for” those attacks.
He noted that the Obama administration had interpreted it and included Islamic state as third-generation descendent of Osama bin Laden’s core al-Qaeda group, but not Boko Haram.
He said the security intelligence report about Boko Haram acknowledged that its internal structure and leadership was imperfect.
Another US official viewed Shekau’s pledge of allegiance to ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi “primarily as a rebranding exercise.”
He said the exercise was aimed at boosting the stature of his group, whose leaders previously said it was aligned with al-Qaeda.