The White House on Monday defended the #BringBackOurGirls social media campaign as a valuable part of the global response to the abduction of more than 200 Nigerian girls. But spokesman Jay Carney dismissed suggestions that hashtag activism would lead Boko Haram kidnappers to free their hostages.
“No, I wouldn’t say that,” Carney told reporters at his daily briefing when asked whether the outpouring of support would lead the extremists to set the girls free.
“We're not anything but realistic about the challenge here. It's extremely difficult,” the spokesman said. “The area that the Nigerian government is looking for the girls in constitutes roughly the size of New England.”
Still, “I think that highlighting the situation there and the tragedy that the abduction of those girls represents helps focus attention on the matter and helps, I think, focus the attention of those who would want to assist in the finding and recovery of those girls,” Carney said.
That appeared to be a reference to the sluggish response the government of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan. Carney, Secretary of State John Kerry and others criticized Jonathan’s handling of the crisis sharply last week even as they announced the deployment of a U.S. team to help with search and rescue.
In private, U.S. officials said the social media campaign had helped to pressure Jonathan’s government finally to accept repeated U.S. offers of help with the rescue effort — even before first lady Michelle Obama lent her voice to the cause.
Carney said the American team includes five State Department officials, including a team leader, two strategic communications experts, a civilian security expert and a regional medical support officer. It also includes 10 Defense Department “planners and advisers” who were already in Nigeria and an additional seven brought in from AFRICOM, the regional U.S. military command in Africa. And the team includes four FBI officials “with expertise in safe recovery, negotiations and preventing future kidnappings,” Carney said.
“They are digging in on the search and coordinating closely with the Nigerian government, and you know, we obviously want to do whatever we can to assist that effort,” he said.
Ramaa Mosley talks with Katie Couric about spreading the hashtag around the world: