U.S. Special Forces Worry #BringBackOurGirls Will Tweet Them Into Africa Like #Kony2012 Did

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Few people have more faith in hashtag activism than the U.S. Special Forces, who are worried #BringBackOurGirls will tweet them into Nigeria, just as #Kony2012 put pressure on the U.S. to send troops to Uganda. While there are similarities — horrific crimes being committed in African "jungles" while governments sit by — the logistics in Nigeria limit the possibility of a hashtag deployment. 

“We’re being tweeted into combat,” an anonymous military official told NBC News. Senior Operations commanders for the Navy SEALs, Delta Force, and Rangers Regiment have warned their men that “the hashtag will bring (them) out” to Northeast Nigeria to rescue the girls. 

On the one hand, there is public pressure in America to help find the girls, from the thousands of tweets from celebrities to everyday hashtag activists. And while the Kony 2012 video, created to draw attention to Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony, wasn't the first step in American involvement there, it made a difference. "No other American military project in sub-Saharan Africa has generated the attention — and the high expectations — as the pursuit of Mr. Kony, partly thanks to a wildly popular video on Mr. Kony’s notorious elusiveness and brutality, 'Kony 2012,'" The New York Times reported in April 2012.

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But rescuing the girls in Nigeria would require specific information on where the girls are, how many men are guarding them and confidence that all camps could be raided at once, according to retired Col. Jack Jacobs. Right now the U.S. can't even confirm reports that the Nigerian officials know where the girls are. And it's unlikely that all the girls would survive a rescue attempt. In that sense, too, there's a precedent: in 2008 the American military helped plan and pay for a raid of Kony's camp in the Congo. The attack failed, and his army killed as many as 900 civilians.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.