U.S. Department of State officials say that acting more quickly to label Boko Haram as a terrorist organization might not have stopped the kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls in Nigeria.
The State Department and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have been accused of negligence in their hesitation to label the Islamic militant group as terrorists, even after Boko Haram vowed to assassinate the U.S. ambassador to Nigeria in February 2012.
“We know his house ... We know his vehicle and the time he leaves his house and the time he returns,” the group claimed.
“In retrospect, we might have done it earlier,” Robert Jackson, a State Department specialist on Africa, told a Senate subcommittee Thursday, addressing a question from Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
Despite the acknowledgement the officials say it’s impossible to know if an earlier designation would have had an impact on the group.
Officials Thursday lamented that more couldn’t be done to help the Nigerian government find the missing girls.
"In general, Nigeria has failed to mount an effective campaign against Boko Haram," said Alice Friend, the Defense Department's principal director for Africa. "In the face of a new and more sophisticated threat than it has faced before, its security forces have been slow to adapt with new strategies, new doctrines and new tactics."
A former State Department official told the Daily Mail Wednesday that the hesitation to add Boko Haram to the Foreign Terrorist Organizations list was political.
“Bulking up the FTO list was not what anyone in leadership wanted,” the former official said. “At some point it became as much about how things looked as what needed to happen.”
During George W. Bush’s administration 17 groups were added to the FTO in eight years. Obama’s administration added 11 to the list by the time of his reelection in 2012.