Today, President Barack Obama sent a War Powers letter to Congress announcing the deployment of 300 U.S. Armed Forces personnel to Cameroon "with the consent of the Government of Cameroon." The letter notes that the forces will "conduct airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance operations in the region."
Members of the U.S. Special Operations forces alongside soldiers from the 3rd Battalion Intervention Rapid (BIR) training together in Bamenda, Cameroon, on January 17, 2013. (Photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Larry W. Carpenter Jr.)
According to White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, the deployment "will be part of a broader regional effort to stop the spread of Boko Haram and other violent extremist organizations in West Africa."
See below for the full text of the letter from the President to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate.
October 14, 2015
Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)
On October 12, 2015, approximately 90 U.S. Armed Forces personnel began deploying to Cameroon with the consent of the Government of Cameroon. This deployment is in advance of the deployment of additional U.S. Armed Forces personnel to Cameroon to conduct airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance operations in the region. The total number of U.S. military personnel to be deployed to Cameroon is anticipated to be up to approximately 300. These forces are equipped with weapons for the purpose of providing their own force protection and security, and they will remain in Cameroon until their support is no longer needed.
I directed the deployment of U.S. forces in furtherance of U.S. national security and foreign policy interests, and pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive.
I am providing this report as part of my efforts to keep the Congress fully informed, consistent with the War Powers Resolution (Public Law 93-148). I appreciate the support of the Congress in this action.
Excerpt of Press Briefing by White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, 10/14/2015
Q And there was notice of 90 U.S. military members going to Cameroon and up to 300 in the future. Can you talk a little bit about what they’re going to be doing, why they’re there, and how long they’ll be there?
MR. EARNEST: I can. Let me try to answer some of those questions.
The U.S. military forces who were deployed to Cameroon are there at the invitation of the government of Cameroon and will act in coordination with the government of Cameroon.
The United States military forces will partner with Cameroon’s ministry of defense, and it will be part of a broader regional effort to stop the spread of Boko Haram and other violent extremist organizations in West Africa. Kevin, you know that the United States has made other commitments to this regional effort, and we have discussed some of the assistance that we have provided to the Nigerian government as they fight Boko Haram and other extremists inside of Nigeria.
When the President traveled to Africa earlier this year, he talked about how important it was for Africa -- the nations of Africa to pursue a regional approach to the threat that is posed by Boko Haram. And what the United States has done is try to offer some of the unique capabilities that we have in the United States military to assist that regional effort. So this deployment will be part of an effort to conduct airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations in the region. This is obviously a unique capacity that the United States has to bring to bear to this effort, and it will be used in support of the ongoing regional counter-extremist efforts that are ongoing there.
And so just to be clear about the U.S. military personnel that were deployed to Cameroon, they are armed but they are armed for the purposes of force protection and providing for their own security. They will not be there in a combat role but rather to provide force protection for -- to allow these airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations to commence.
Q Is there a timeframe for the deployment?
MR. EARNEST: I believe that it has already occurred, which is what prompted the War Powers notice. As a requirement of the War Powers Act that when deployments like this occur that the administration informs Congress within 48 hours of that deployment. So my understanding is that this deployment has already started.
Q But how long?
MR. EARNEST: How long it would be there? I’d refer you to the Department of Defense. The last thing I’ll point out, Kevin, is that this is not the first contribution that the United States has made to this broader regional effort against Boko Haram, but this is actually an effort to increase the assistance that we’re providing based on the unique capabilities that are housed at the United States military.