Ex-Nigeria ambassador: Clinton criticism unfair

A former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria under President George W. Bush said on Sunday it was unfair to criticize former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for not designating Boko Haram, the Islamist group that has kidnapped nearly 300 schoolgirls, as a terrorist group.

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John Campbell, who served as ambassador from 2004-2007, said he and other experts on Nigeria had also opposed the designation because Boko Haram was a “highly diffuse” group, and the move could have limited U.S. options in dealing with it in the future.

The State Department has since designated Boko Haram as a terror group, and President Obama has dispatched military advisers and law enforcement personnel to help in the search for the girls after Nigeria initially balked at asking for assistance.

Campbell said that, as the most populous country in Africa, Nigeria is often reluctant to ask for international assistance but that it must do so before the U.S. can step up its aid.

“For the U.S. to do anything, it requires the request and acquiescence of the Nigerian government,” Campbell said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“Nigerians look to help, not be helped, so this is a different set of circumstances for them,” he said.

Campbell said Boko Haram, which has threatened to sell the girls into slavery, has said it wants to destroy the Nigerian government because it is secular.

The girls were kidnapped nearly a month ago, and Campbell said it's likely they have been split up and taken to different countries in Africa. It’s unlikely, he suggested, that all of them could be rescued.

“I think the question is how many do we get back,” he said. “It’s a bleak situation.”

“It’s going to be very difficult” to find the missing girls, Secretary of State Chuck Hagel said on ABC’s “This Week.”

“We’re going to bring to bear every asset we can possibly use to help the Nigerian government,” he said.

“I think you look at everything, but there’s no intention, at this point, of putting any American boots on the ground,” Hagel added.

— Kyle Balluck contributed to this report, which was updated at 10:14 a.m.