"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." Josh Earnest
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest has clarified the role of the 300 US troops being deployed to Cameroon. Here are the relevant excerpts from yesterday's White House press briefing:
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.