Pete Hoekstra, the former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said on Tuesday there is reason to doubt that Nigeria's military truly knows where to find the more than 200 school girls kidnapped by the militant Islamist group Boko Haram.
Air Marshal Alex Badeh, Nigeria's defense chief, said on Monday that his forces have located the missing girls
but would not risk their lives by attempting a rescue.
"I'm somewhat skeptical," Hoekstra said on Newsmax TV in an interview with "America's Forum" hosts John Bachman and Ed Berliner.
"There's strong evidence … that once these roughly 300 girls were kidnapped, they were broken into smaller groups," said Hoekstra. "They're probably in an area where the Nigerian government doesn't have a reach."
Hoekstra said he suspects Badeh's announcement, made to a group of anguished parents protesting the government's failure to act, "was done for internal, political reasons."
He added, "If they really knew where the girls were, and you were thinking of mounting some type of a raid, would you really go and broadcast that nationally and internationally, saying, 'Hey, we know where they are. Now we're just developing a strategy as to what to do?' "
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Hoekstra said the kidnapping and response have exposed Nigeria's armed services as ill-equipped to handle the crisis.
"They're not that good," said Hoekstra. "They're not that well-trained. They are infiltrated by these radical elements."
He said Nigeria's government, whether out of pride or ineptitude, went "weeks" after the kidnapping without asking for international help that they should have sought much sooner.
"Only recently have they started opening up," said Hoekstra.
He said it's possible that the girls could be safely freed without military action if the Nigerian government is willing to hold its nose and negotiate with Boko Haram.
"There are lots of examples across northern Africa where you've got these terrorist groups that are using kidnapping, hostage-taking, as a way to fund their operations," said Hoekstra. "So I would put the negotiations as a very real possibility. … It will probably be done through negotiation and a ransom being paid."
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