Taken separately, the Nigerian government’s policies on the rescue of more than 200 girls kidnaped by Boko Haram are entirely defensible. Most governments refuse to negotiate with terrorists, after all, including the US. In the specific circumstances of this crisis, the use of force to resolve it may well prove disastrous.

Put together, though, it looks incoherent and impotent, especially since Nigeria’s military command now claim to know where Boko Haram are hiding the girls:

The Nigerian military has come under harsh criticism for its failure to rescue more than 200 kidnapped schoolgirls, and six weeks after they were snatched from their school in the north of the country, Nigeria’s Chief of Defense Alex Badeh claimed the military knew where they were, but a rescue operation was too risky.

Badeh told a crowd of bussed-in demonstrators gathered to support the beleaguered military that he couldn’t say publicly where the 276 missing girls were being held.

If the military rules out using force to rescue the girls, CBS News contributor Debora Patta reports that it would leave secret negotiations between the government and the Boko Haram militant group — which have been going on for weeks — as the main option.

But a source close to the talks told CBS News that a deal to swap the girls for Boko Haram prisoners secured over the weekend was scuttled at the last minute by President Goodluck Jonathan.

Jonathan can’t have it both ways. Either he cuts a deal and puts off the fight against Boko Haram, or he has to use military force at some point to free the girls. Deciding against both options only means that the girls will remain abducted indefinitely.

Hagel told Charlie Rose that the US would take action to free the hostages, but left the kind of action necessarily ambiguous. It’s better at this point not to tip our hand, even if Nigeria doesn’t clearly understand that. If we were inclined to take the lead on such a raid, though, we’d need at least some logistical and tactical support from the Nigerian military, which they seem reluctant to deploy on their own.

CBS calls this situation “confusing,” which is a polite word for the ancient-but-useful military term FUBAR.