Washington, DC, United States (4E) – Eighty Air Force troops were sent to Chad to run a drone search for about 276 kidnapped schoolgirls in neighboring Nigeria and other areas, the White House said Wednesday in a notification to Congress of the deployment.
The said troops will operate unmanned and manned surveillance aircraft from a former French air base in N’Djamena until the schoolgirls believed kidnapped by Nigerian militants of Boko Haram are found and rescued.
The forces will maintain aircraft and analyze surveillance data. They were not deployed for combat mission but to support reconnaissance mission, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said in an interview on CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper” on Wednesday.
Reconnaissance flights will be searching an area roughly the size of West Virginia, Kirby said. The area includes parts of Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and other countries.
Forty of the U.S. troops will be operating the launch and recovery of the unarmed drone on its missions, and the rest will serve as security on the ground in Chad.
The airmen will complement 16 U.S. military advisors sent to Nigeria by the U.S. Africa Command, along with FBI and intelligence officials, as part of a State Department effort to assist the Nigerian government in finding and recovering the missing girls. The advisors include U.S. Army Africa personnel and special forces troops who will train a Nigerian ranger battalion in combat operations aimed at countering Boko Haram fighters.
Boko Haram fighters seized the schoolgirls from Chibok last month during a nighttime attack on villages in the Nigerian province.