Operation Juniper Nimbus
Primary Operating Location: Stuttgart, Germany?
Secondary Operating Location/s: Abuja, Nigeria?
– U/I Elements, Company A, 5th Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne)
– U/I Elements, Special Operations Detachment – US Northern Command, California Army National Guard
Start Date: May? 2014
End Date: Ongoing
Summary: In April 2014, Boko Haram abducted more than 200 schoolgirls from a dormitory in the town of Chibok in Nigeria’s Borno State. The attack was one of the Islamist groups most brazen to date and touched off an outpouring of international condemnation. The United States responded by stepping up its support for the Nigerian military, as part of an broader interagency effort that got underway in May. The Pentagon’s contribution to these efforts to counter the spread of Boko Haram was eventually nicknamed Operation Juniper Nimbus.
Initially, Washington deployed a “multi-disciplinary team” to specifically advise Nigerian authorities in relation to the Chibok abduction. This group included “US military personnel, law enforcement advisors and investigators as well experts in hostage negotiations, strategic communications, civilian security, and intelligence,” according to an official White House fact sheet.
Soon thereafter, US Army Africa (USARAF) initiated a program to train up a completely new Nigerian Army infantry battalion. USARAF said this military assistance project was the first time it had trained a Nigerian Army unit for direct action rather than peacekeeping. The training regimen itself was reportedly based at least in part on the US Army’s Ranger Course and was initially conducted by special operations forces from the California Army National Guard. California is paired with Nigeria through the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program.
This training effort came to an abrupt end in December 2014. “We did not receive any specific reason as to why they wanted to cancel the training,” the acting defense attache for the country U.S. Army Lt. Col. John Cantwell told Voice of America at the time. Nigerian military spokesman Major General Chris Olukolade would only say that it was a “purely strategic action.”
In addition, the Pentagon was sharing intelligence with their Nigerian counterparts. This reportedly involved imagery and other information gleaned from both manned and unmanned aircraft. On 21 May 2014, President Barack Obama alerted the US Congress that he was sending approximately 80 personnel to Chad to run one of these intelligence gathering efforts. This was later determined to be supporting the flights of a single MQ-1 Predator. The aircraft was not reported to be armed. RQ-4 Global Hawks, likely operating from bases in Europe, were also involved in the search for the missing schoolgirls.