AJUBA, Nigeria — The arrival of 80 U.S. troops to help look for hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped last month will greatly aid the search, a South African analyst says.
"(The U.S. involvement) will bring a completely different dimension to the situation," said Martin Ewi, senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, South Africa. "The Nigerian government is going to take it more seriously, and some of the local politicians (obstructing the search) are going to go away now that they will be watched by the international forces."
President Obama announced Wednesday he was sending 80 military personnel to Chad, which borders Nigeria. The troops — who are from the Air Force and have already begun their mission — will help in both unmanned and manned reconnaissance flights in northern Nigeria, where the girls are believed to be held.
But the increased U.S. involvement isn't happening quickly enough for family members whose daughters were taken by the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram.
"The foreign soldiers are taking much time to rescue our girls," said the mother of one missing girl who asked not be identified out of concern for her daughter. "This is urgent – we need to get our girls back, they need to go and fight them, they are taking too much time to act."
Boko Haram, which translates to "Western education is forbidden," took the girls from a secondary school in mid-April in the northeastern town of Chibok. For weeks, the government did little until international outrage grew over the kidnappings, and offers of help began to pour in.
While President Goodluck Jonathan is under pressure to act, analysts say it is the infighting between the federal and state governments that is undermining the rescue effort.
"There is corruption, and politics (in Nigeria) is so divisive," said Ewi. "The opposition, which is located in the north, is doing everything it can to undermine the work of the government — they are playing (games) regarding the search for the girls."
However, Lawal Bana, the central government's representative in the northern region disputes that claim, saying he expects a breakthrough soon.
"We are getting control of the situation right now, and soon the girls will be rescued," he said. "We appeal to families of the missing girls to be patient as the government bumps up its efforts to release the girls."
Chibok resident Mohammed Rabiu says the government must give in to Boko Haram's demands to release members of its group from prison in exchange for the girls' freedom.
"The government should release detained Boko Haram fighters — it's the only way to get back our girls," he said. "This is the only hope we have at the moment because our soldiers cannot get these girls released."
The family members of the missing girls say they want that exchange to happen because they don't have faith in the government or foreign military personnel to free their daughters.
"The government should have a dialogue with Boko Haram so they will release our girls," the mother of the missing girl said. "Boko Haram is very powerful, and even though they have abducted our daughters, they still wreak havoc on our villages."