While the United States has for long ignored the small African terrorist group IPOB at its peril, enormous pressures are being mounted on the State Department to designate the Indigenous People of Biafra as a foreign terrorist organization.
This was released according to a report by an Expert on Terrorism and the Executive Director of the School of Public & International Affairs, Ivan Sascha Sheehan.
An African terrorist organization is suing U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in U.S. federal court. It beggars belief.
So how did it happen?
The answer is frustratingly simple. The violent secessionist group in question – the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) – is yet to be designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) by the US Department of State. This is despite repeated pleas to do so by longstanding U.S. ally Nigeria, where IPOB is based and carries out its murderous activities.
It is difficult to explain how U.S. interests are served by inaction and complacency on IPOB. The listing costs nothing. But the designation would have significant implications for the group’s continuance.
Let’s start with the obvious: Tagging the group with a terror label would hit IPOB’s wallet hard.
As soon as the designation is applied, no organization that utilizes U.S. currency would be able to legally conduct transactions with the organization. By cutting off IPOB’s funding, the U.S. would weaken the 50,000 strong paramilitary outfits and provide Nigeria’s security forces room to train their sights squarely on ISIS-affiliated Boko Haram in the Northeast of the country. Counterterrorism operations against Boko Haram have long been assisted by U.S. agencies working in close coordination with the West African government.
Though IPOB may appear to be Abuja’s problem alone, the militants have served as a distraction and bled precious resources. Over the past eighteen months, Boko Haram has regrettably been able to regroup and rejuvenate. The same is true of Al Qaeda-affiliated groups across the volatile Sahel region. That the African continent is rapidly becoming a staging ground for global terror operations should concern U.S. officials.