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In Chad, U.N. Ambassador Power Visits Anti-Extremist Command Center

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

U.S. military officials are worried about a new development. It appears that ISIS and Boko Haram, the militant group that abducted the schoolgirls in Nigeria, are cooperating in Africa. One country where this could be happening is Chad. NPR's Michele Kelemen was there covering a visit by a top U.S. diplomat and military official.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: This is a country in a dangerous region with ISIS and al-Qaida in the Maghreb active to the North and Boko Haram to the West. The commander of U.S. Special Forces in Africa, Donald Bolduc, is worried that these groups are now sharing tactics.

DONALD BOLDUC: Here at Lake Chad base and region is ground zero.

KELEMEN: Brigadier Gen. Bolduc says Chadian forces recently intercepted a convoy with small arms heading to the Lake Chad region from Libya, presumably from ISIS. The U.S. is watching this closely and sharing intelligence with regional forces. He says countries need to work together as Nigeria steps up the fight against Boko Haram.

BOLDUC: So it's like a batter and a catcher's mitt, right? You're going to attack them inside, disrupt them, degrade them, defeat them inside Nigeria. And Chad, Cameroon and Niger stand ready with their forces to contain it.

KELEMEN: That regional coordination happens here, in a drab, one-story office building in the dusty Chadian capital N'Djamena.

SAMANTHA POWER: Hello.

L.O. ADEOSUN: Welcome, your excellency.

POWER: Thank you. So good to meet you.

ADEOSUN: It's a pleasure...

POWER: You have a big job, no pressure.

KELEMEN: The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Samantha Power was here to meet the Nigerian general who runs the multinational joint task force. L.O. Adeosun says he can't confirm that ISIS has really merged with Boko Haram on an operational basis. Though, he's clearly nervous. He's also worried that the militant group is strapping crude bombs onto birds and drugging children to carry out terrorist attacks.

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ADEOSUN: Some are brainwashed and trained to do it. Some are coerced and drugged to do it.

KELEMEN: The Nigerian general says he could use more timely intelligence reports from the U.S. and more trust. Gen. Bolduc describes the U.S. role this way.

BOLDUC: We don't replace their will with our capability and capacity. What we do is we enable them. And in some cases, we reassure them so that they can own the problem, own the fight and own the solution themselves.

KELEMEN: The problem is the U.S. has to rely on African leaders like Idriss Deby, who's been in power in Chad for a quarter of a century. There were reports that 60 security forces who did not vote for him in recent elections were rounded up and arrested this week. But the Chadian leader almost laughed when I asked him about it.

PRES IDRISS DEBY: (Through interpreter) There is no disapparition (ph) at all. Nobody disappeared. And there will be presented at the television, and the world will see that nobody has disappeared.

KELEMEN: The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Samantha Powers, says Deby assured her his ministers would look into these cases. She says she raised concerns that members of the military here couldn't vote by secret ballot.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

POWER: We stressed that it is absolutely indispensable, that the individuals who were alleged to be in detention be released.

KELEMEN: And she says the embassy here will be following up, even as the U.S. partners more closely with Chad, a key player in the fight against extremism. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, N'Djamena Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.