Abuja - Boko Haram's brutal Islamist insurgency has stalled Nigeria's development, inflamed ethnic tensions and raised concern among its neighbours, a senior US diplomat said Thursday at the start of bilateral security talks.
Wendy Sherman, US under-secretary of state for political affairs, said the United States was ready to help Nigeria "develop a multi-faceted strategy" to contain the violence, but warned that a military crackdown alone would not work.
The Boko Haram conflict has "increased tensions between various ethnic communities, interrupted development activities, frightened off investors and generated concerns among Nigeria's northern neighbours," Sherman said.
The extremist group is fighting to establish an Islamic state in Nigeria and has carried out waves of attacks across the region.
Some of the violence has occurred along the northern borders with Cameroon, Chad and Niger amid fears that Boko Haram fighters could spill into neighbouring states.
Stemming the bloodshed "may require a new social compact with Nigerian citizens," said Sherman, who is leading the US diplomatic and military delegation for the talks.
She added that it was crucial to have "an economic recovery strategy as a complement to the government's security strategy."
Sherman said the government of President Goodluck Jonathan must "garner the support of northern governors and local officials" as it pursues a plan to lift the north out of conflict and poverty.
Sherman restated previous calls by US officials for Nigeria's military to abide by rules of engagement and punish soldiers responsible for civilian deaths.