Regional military cooperation must improve to defeat Boko Haram – By Ahmad Salkida

AhmadSalkidaIn February 2015 the African Union authorized the mobilization of a multinational force drawn from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria to tackle Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria and northern Cameroon.

Prior to this, a loosely-arranged multinational military collaboration between Nigeria, Cameroon and Niger had served to somewhat disrupt the activities of the group. But the greatest weakness of current multinational responses has been a lack of mutual confidence between the participant nations. For this reason, the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) confronting Boko Haram has not achieved its optimal operational capacity.

After stumbling over an attempted ceasefire negotiation last year, Nigeria’s National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, accused Chad of links with the group’s leadership. In January, and on several occasions since, Chadian troops unilaterally crossed into Nigeria and notched several victories over the group. Niger added to this by labeling Nigerian troops as “cowards”. With matters degenerating, the Nigerian Defense Headquarters responded by calling Nigerien forces “serial looters”.

Cameroon, for its part, has largely kept quiet regarding the Nigerian military’s counter-insurgency capacity. This being said, the Cameroonian authorities did release statements confirming that Nigerian troops had fled into Cameroon following Boko Haram attacks. Cameroon was also unhappy with Nigeria for preventing its soldiers from pursuing fleeing Boko Haram members into Nigeria.

Nigeria, for its part, believes that its neighbour’s refusal over several years to act against Boko Haram gifted the group a safe haven, allowing it to grow into a sub-regional menace.

If the countries participating in the Joint Task Force had a shared aspiration and common mission then their troops have the strength and military capacity to defeat the insurgents. Each party or coalition partner brings its own capabilities in understanding the region’s communities and topography. But Nigeria, it appears, prefers to work with South African mercenaries, rather than effectively partner with its neighbours.

Does the Multinational Joint Task Force actually exist?

The requisite command structure does not yet exist for MNJTF to achieve sustained success. There is no effective central command from which instructions can flow to the rank and file. In reality, the only countries in a multinational operation against Boko Haram at present are Cameroon and Chad, with General Rene Claude Meka acting as the alliance Commander. Chad also acted alone when it entered Nigerian territory in January, receiving assurances for its actions from France.

A source within Nigeria’s military command revealed that there was no need to send a contingent to join Cameroon and Chad under the existing operational command since “we will soon have an African Union 7,500 strong force from Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Benin.”

A trusted inside assessment of the impact of the recent military action  by Cameroon and Chad, which was matched by the Nigerian Army in January and February, had killed a substantial number of the insurgents’ foot soldiers and weaponry, forcing them, especially their elite fighters, to retreat to the Gwoza and northern Mandara mountains. A source close to the insurgency said that Abubakar Shekau has vowed to stay with his fighters to the end.

Colonel Azem Bermandoa, the Chadian military spokesman, revealed that, “after we seized the town of Gamboru and other villages and towns including Dikwa, we had to turn back because Nigeria did not authorize us to go any further.” Had the joint military force been authorised to push on, many more insurgents could have been destroyed. The failure to pursue Shekau into Nigerian territory has provided respite for the group to embark on a rebuilding and a re-strategizing process.

Nigeria’s spokesman for operations in the North East, Mike Omeri, said cooperation between Chadian and Nigerian forces had brought forth a major military breakthrough. But officials in Chad and Cameroon insist that no such cooperation with Nigeria exists.

Bermandoa also lamented that when his contingent offered to join a Nigerian offensive to capture the fishing town of Baga in January, the request was  denied. Today, parts of Kukawa local government, where Baga is located, still harbour hundreds of insurgents in contested locations.

Kukawa is also thought to be the location of Boko Haram’s recent beheading of two young men accused of spying. These executions were viewed internationally as an ‘Islamic State’-style video was made available on the internet. A source with links to the insurgents stated that “now that the Nigerian Mujahideens are taking on soldiers from four countries, we will also need multinational Jihadis to assist us.”

In spite of the challenges that dog the multinational forces, they have been able to achieve some success on the battlefield.  However, the success of the regional operation has been overstressed. Boko Haram remains operationally effective and was still able to move its tanks to Sueram village last Saturday, just a few kilometers from Fotokol, which in February saw Boko Haram’s most deadly attack on Cameroonian territory. There were also violent attacks by Boko Haram in Adamawa and Borno states on Monday and Tuesday.

Boko Haram is likely to lose its control over large areas of Borno State due to the continued actions of multinational forces, but the issues fueling violence and bloodletting are too complicated to be fully solved on the battlefield.

Insider opinion informs us that Boko Haram, and especially its leadership, is structured into several different protocols. These include a spiritual component, as well as intelligence, welfare, recruitment, liaison officers, public enlightenment, and the operational command structure (closely linked to the militants on the battlefield). Not all of these components are currently in the theatre of war and are spread across the region. To subdue all parts of the Boko Haram network will require a deep, strategic domestic security framework that is yet to be put in place.

Salkida is a journalist and a conflict analyst. He can be reached on Twitter: @contactSalkida

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13 thoughts on “Regional military cooperation must improve to defeat Boko Haram – By Ahmad Salkida

  1. I have a feeling that as far as this Government is concerned they are safe in the south south and Nothing will happen to them…

    We really do not need a MNJTF to tackle BH .. But now that incompetence has made them regionally strong, then all Hands must be on deck…. I am ashamed to call the present crop of security people Nigerians… So it is very paramount for Nigeria to stop being proud and lets save our people

  2. Another master piece from a seasoned analyst. Another issue is total disregard for intelligent analytics from analyst like Ahmad. All parties are engaged in political brouhaha which is counter productive to effort in winning the war against insurgency. Good one Ahmad.

  3. We know from time immemorial that you are a boko haram sympathizer and all your comments have pointed to this fact. Why did you fail to mention that the Chadian president bungled the peace deal with boko haram? Why did you fail to mention that Idris Deby’s brother-in-law or nephew was caught with over 10 surface-to-air missiles for delivery to boko haram? Why do you fail to mention that boko haram is not just a Nigerian group but has Chadians and Nigeriens? Why do you fail to mention that boko haram operated freely in northern Cameroon despite pleas by Nigerian govt for the Cameroonian to take affirmative action which they did when they started being affected? Why do you fail to mention that despite all the noise about the Chadians, they only liberated 2 or 3 towns while the Nigerian forces have captured over 30 from boko haram? Master piece my foot. Go sell your stories to the marines. Hypocrite!

  4. Sound analysis. The response of the Nigerian government, which has principal responsibility in ending the insurgency, has been very suspect at the very least. It is shocking that Chad, with its inferior army, is making more gains on BH in weeks than the Nigerian Military with its huge budget has done in six years.

  5. This article is well written and raises the questions that have plagued for the past year. Why did it take so long for neighboring territories to finally decide that the destructive efforts have Boko Haram needs to be squashed. They have been operating freely for almost 6 years if not more – and there was never a need to join forces to end their brutality. But there is no time like the present – although so far there isn’t any proof that the combined efforts is yielding massive results. I think Ahmad is right when he touches upon the intimidation factor. This has been a huge detriment to the Nigerian army and until they are efficiently trained to understand how to tactfully assess their target to produce the expected results – there will be very little change. There has to be a strategic blueprint in place.

  6. A very well written piece from a respected, investigative journalist, analyst, and observer of Boko Haram’s terrorist insurgency.

    The theme of the article – the dysfunctional nature of the command coordination between Nigeria and its Lake Chad neighbours in the fight against Boko Haram – certainly chimes with what many have observed on the ground.

    The dissonant messaging from the spokesmen of the Nigerian military on the one hand and Chad/Niger on the other hand alone highlights that operational synergy at the command level is less than optimal.

    The article is a must read for any wishing to gain an insight into the dynamics of the regional cooperation between Nigeria and its allies. The article’s reference to France’s role in green lighting Chad’s intervention, highlighting of Boko Haram’s continued operational strength despite the ongoing offensive, and reminder that simply deterritorialising the terrorist group may not necessarily spell the end of Boko Haram’s reign of terror are thought provoking suggestions that any serious analyst of this terrible insurgency should reflect on.

    This is an insightful article that should be read as widely as possible.

  7. Most Nigerians knows that neighboring countries of cameroon ,Chad,Niger,and some some north African countries and Arabs countries want Boko haram to ridicule Jonathan Administration by allow Boko haram using those country a hideout . The whole thing went sour after boko haram started killing some those country. What goes around comes around.The world should realize that ISIS ,Alquida,,Boko haram are enemy to global community.It is never a poverty that cause senseless killing innocent people around the globe but having the mind to islamise the world .which very lanatic thinking and impossible . The world must know Islam is never a peaceful religion.

  8. The article is a must read for any wishing to gain an insight into the dynamics of the regional cooperation between Nigeria and its allies. The article’s reference to France’s role in green lighting Chad’s intervention, highlighting of Boko Haram’s continued operational strength despite the ongoing offensive, and reminder that simply deterritorialising the terrorist group may not necessarily spell the end of Boko Haram’s reign of terror are thought provoking suggestions that any serious analyst of this terrible insurgency should reflect on.

  9. Terrorism is a global issue. It is a problem shared by many countries. But for Nigeria it is a crisis. It is a crisis that has poisoned the police force, sickened the political class and corrupted its citizens. It wants to divide Nigeria along religious and tribal lines.

    Nigeria is a great country and we would not wish it to enter into civil war like South Sudan. Methink, Jonathan needs support. He look very cool on the outside and this could be very suicidal. Sometimes and those times are many, the president needs to speak with Authority. He should speak with firmness that opens minds and hearts of both Muslims and Christians.

    Africa and the world enjoys watching Nigerian moving and in Kenya it is a routine. We pray for Nigeria. My heart goes out to men and women crying in the darkness for a peaceful Nigeria.

    Regardless of religion we are one people. All of us supporting Muslim traditions or christian traditions. Let us not be divided along religious faultiness. We came on this earth and we will go when time.

    So guys, let us preach peace. Within and outside Nigeria.

  10. Yes. This the first time . I have read anything written by you. I have been hearing about you for sometime.

    I think you are right on a couple of fronts, namely that Boko Haram is going to loose possibly all its territory. Due to concerted miilitary effort on the part of mailnly Nigeria and her neighbours.

    I also agree that this problem cannot be resolved on the battlefield alone.

    There are already moves to make the multnational force a more permanent institution. So that should take care of the seeming doublespeak the spokesmen of Nigeria and Chadia or whover else in future.

    “now that the Nigerian Mujahideens are taking on soldiers from four countries, we will also need multinational Jihadis to assist us.” in that statement lies the next phase of this struggle.

    The internalisation of this. will require even greater cooperation from countries even outside this region than is currently the case. e.g. something has to be done about what is going on in Libya particularly in the south of the country.

    get ready for the long haul

  11. Great article. The sad aspect of all these brouhaha is the lack of concern for the lives of the innocent people being needlessly being put in danger.

  12. A good piece, as usual, from Salkida. Anything written by Salkida on this insurgency is authoritative. Even though I am impressed by the rendition and the way facts flow, I am awoken by the truism that the battle may be won but the war will remain a nightmare.
    While I believe that if Nigeria would up its acts the battle would be over sooner than later, some salient observations by the writer should be of utmost concern to the international community, more so now that there is a ‘formal’ allegiance to IS and an ‘acknowledgement’. Gthese observations all boil down to ‘after the battle’.

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