A small team of U.S. special operations troops may be heading to Nigeria to help the local army there to fight the extremist group Boko Haram, defense officials said.

"They are looking at a platoon-size element," Lt. Cmdr. Anthony Falvo, a spokesman for U.S. Africa Command, said Friday.

The deployment would be an advise-and-assist mission and would not involve U.S. troops in direct combat with the extremist group, Falvo said.

First reported Thursday by the New York Times, the move would be similar to a previous Nigeria advise-and-assist mission that was halted in 2014 amid diplomatic tensions between the two countries. "What you're seeing is a resumption of the training that we were already providing," Falvo said.

The recommendation for deploying troops to Nigeria came from the top U.S. Special Operations commander for Africa, Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc. That request was recently forwarded to Washington for approval by the Pentagon and the State Department.

The Nigerian government for months has been requesting additional U.S. military support.

Last year the U.S. deployed more than 200 American troops to Cameroon. They are supporting flight operations for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance for the Cameroon government's fight against Boko Haram along its border with Nigeria.

Boko Haram controls large swaths of northeastern Nigeria and also operates in several other countries in sub-Saharan Africa's interior.

Andrew Tilghman is the executive editor for Military Times. He is a former Military Times Pentagon reporter and served as a Middle East correspondent for the Stars and Stripes. Before covering the military, he worked as a reporter for the Houston Chronicle in Texas, the Albany Times Union in New York and The Associated Press in Milwaukee.

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