Has Boko Haram really been defeated? Reflections on the battlefield
By Chidi Omeje
Something is happening in the north east. The counter insurgency and counter terrorism operations which the Nigerian military is prosecuting in that region is gathering steam and the steam is obviously becoming too hot for the adversary. In what appears to be an anticlimax in their bloody campaign, Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists have been boxed into a cul-de-sac, courtesy of the unrelenting offensive operations of the Nigerian troops; a predictable fate that offers the notoriously vicious terror group only one option: waving of the olive branch! And olive branch they have been frantically waving of late, the bloodied terrorists.
Almost on daily basis in the past one month, scores after scores of Boko Haram/ISWAP fighters have been surrendering to troops in the theatre. As I write, about 300 Commanders and foot-soldiers of the group along with their families have so far laid down their arms, denounced violence and renounced membership of the evil organisation. This is the result of aggressive deployment of intelligence, kinetic and no-kinetic onslaught by the Nigerian Armed Forces which have led to the death of many of the terrorists and obliteration of their enclaves.
Many more of the fighters have also given up their arms following intense hunger in their camps and frequent outbreak of diseases and the near impossibility of accessing drugs or feeding on normal food. As narrated by one of the fighters who recently surrendered to the troops, the stark reality in their enclaves is one of hunger, disease, brutality, high level of immorality and the constant fear of military offensives. He gave details of how much terrified they were in their locations and that is why most of them came out with their wives and children.
The truth is that the sustained airstrikes and heavy artillery bombardments by the troops on the enclaves of the terrorists in Sambisa forest and environ have exerted so much pressure on the fighters and totally disoriented them, prompting the frantic waving of the proverbial olive branch. Apparently, their fighting capability has depleted seriously with remnants deserting various camps, leaving behind a few diehards who stand no chance of not being eliminated by the highly spirited Nigerian troops.
But the current devastating form of the Nigerian troops –both on land and air – did not come per chance. It is the result of clear-headed strategic decisions, well-executed tactical plans and well co-ordinated operations of the Nigerian military. Strategic decision to strengthen the synergy of action between the land and air forces on one and hand and the integration of both the intelligence assets and logistics support of other security agencies have proved very effective in the operations.
It bears reiterating that the greatest magic bullet employed by the military authorities which has enabled the current desirable result so far, aside from the high moral and fighting spirit of the troops, is the new found synergy between the services. In effect, the unhealthy inter-service rivalry which robbed off negatively on the professional and operational relationship between the ground troops and air component before the current dispensation is now a thing of the past. No wonder they (the military) hit the bull’s eye and leave the adversary with bloodied nose, operations after operations.
Of course, successful operations are usually the result of painstaking actionable intelligence provided by different sources, most effective of which is the human intelligence (HUMINT). It was gathered that acting on the directives from the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Faruk Yahaya, massive engagement of intelligence tools were employed to gather actionable information on the locations, movements and arm stockpiles of BHTs / ISWAP. When he visited the theatre recently, he assured the troops that they will get whatever they need to be able to penetrate the BHTs / ISWAP bases both in the Sambisa forest and Lake Chad general areas.
Without doubt, the use of some discreet technologies has also assisted in gathering useful intelligence which has enabling troops to carry out several offensives into the so-called strongholds of the terrorists. It is the effective deployment of intelligence asset and well-guided bombardments by the military that forced many strategic commanders of Boko Haram to abandon their missions and surrender to troops.
As a professional force that adheres strictly to extant international laws of arms conflict particularly the provision that relate to adversaries surrendering, the Nigerian Army has promised to always accept Boko Haram members who laid their arms and willfully denounced violent campaigns. These kinetic and non-kinetic lines of operations are really paying off as the professional manner in which they are handling the surrendered fighters within the ambit of international best practices have no doubt helped to convince others to come out too.
Feelers from the theaters are that the troops are upbeat about the current leadership of the military. They have in many occasions expressed their appreciation for the support they receive from their COAS and other Service Chiefs who have provided needed combat enablers and insisted in ‘jointness’ and the idea of taking the fight to the terrorists.
From what is going down in the theatre of operation in the north east, it is obvious that the troops are more than ever ready to conclude the war on terror as soon as possible but they will need serious support from all men and women of goodwill to finish off the job.
Chidi Omeje is the Editor-in-Chief, Nigeria Security Digest (www.securitydigestng.com)