Situation North East (Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States)

23 July

A suspected male PBIED detonated in GONI MODU LASHIBE Mosque in MAINARI, KONDUGA LGA, BORNO State around 4.55am during morning prayers, killing himself and 7 people and wounding 10

24 July

The Presidential Committee on North East Initiatives began distribution of 600 tonnes of free fertiliser to returning IDPs in 9 southern BORNO LGA’s

Boko Haram released a 36 minute video featuring Abubakar SHEKAU

Acting GOC 7 Div Brig Gen Abdulmalik Bulama BIU held a meeting in his office with civil society organisations such as the Fish Producers Association, Road Transport Employers Association (RTEAN), Nigerian Legion and Radio Ndarson International urging them to share information.

26 July

Gunmen mounted in up to 30 vehicles and motorcycles attacked JAKANA, KONDUGA LGA, BORNO State around 5.42pm from the west via BENISHEIK with small arms, crew served weapons and RPGs, overrunning the adjacent military base andburning down the police station, killing at least 2 policemen and a civilian and wounding 9 civilians. Friendly forces fell back to KOLORI, until police and military counter attacked after about 2 hours defeating the enemy

27 July

New command appointments were announced by the Army as follows Op Lafiya Dole Theatre Commander- Maj Gen A.M. DIKKO, Brig Gen A.O. ABDULLAHI Acting Commander Sector 2, Op Lafiya Dole, Brig Gen U.U. BASSEY Acting Commander Sector 3, Op Lafiya Dole, Maj Gen C.O. UDE Commander MNJTF, MAj Gen B.A. AKINROLUYO, GOC 3 Div

Gunmen attacked DIKWA, DIKWA LGA, BORNO State from the east but were intercepted and defeated by elements of 22 Bde

Gunmen mounted on 3 x gun trucks attacked MAIRARI VILLAGE, MONGUNO LGA, BORNO State around 6.50pm. troops from the FOB counter attacked with air support, killing 16 enemy, recapturing 2 x gun trucks and 163 x AAA gun rounds. 1 soldier and 4 civilians were killed

Situation North West (Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara States)

22 July

Up to 10 gunmen intercepted vehicles along THE ABUJA-KADUNA Expressway  in the vicinity of GIDAN BUSA Village, KACHIA LGA, KADUNA State between JERE and KATERI around 6.45pm for over an hour, killing at least 4 people, wounding 5 and abducting several others

24 July

Gunmen ambushed an NPF patrol vehicle on BIRNIN-GWARI- KADUNA Road in the vicinity of LABI Village, BIRNIN GWARI LGA, KADUNA State killing 3 policemen and burning their vehicle

25 July

Elements of 207 Quick Response Group (QRG), NAF, GUSAU, ZAMFARA State attached to Op Sharan Daji arrested 16 suspected bandits and a suspected drug dealer. Also recovered were 3 x firearms, 7 x cartridges, 1 x magazine containing 30 x 7.62mm rounds. 3 villagers were rescued from BOKO Village, as well as 5 abducted policemen and 3 abducted civilians

UNDP, the Government of JAPAN and ADAMAWA State Government launched a programme to distribute agricultural inputs in LOKO, SONG LGA, ADAMAWA State. JAPAN is providing $2.5m in order to support 2,200 farmers and 500 small businesses, facilitate the rehabilitation of 5 community infrastructure and employ 850 people. Seeds, sprayers, fertiliser, farming tools and solar lanterns are to be distributed

27 July

Gunmen mounted in 5 trucks and several motorcycles attacked a checkpoint in BUNARI, GUZAMALA  LGA, BORNO State near MONGUNO around 6.30pm with small arms killing 11 soldiers and 3 civilians and overrunning the checkpoint, capturing 1 x APC and 3 x trucks

Situation North Centre (Abuja FCT, Bauchi, Benue, Gombe, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, Plateau, Taraba States)

23 July

The CDS Gen OLONISAKIN has replaced Commander Op Safe Haven in PLATEAU State Maj Gen Anthony ATOLAGBE with Maj Gen Augustine Chris Chukwudi AGUNDU. ATOLAGBE redeploys to Defence HQ and Director Campaign Planning.

24 July

Zenith Bank donated 10 x Toyota Hilux vans to the TARABA State government for distribution to security agencies in the State

Gunmen ambushed travellers on KABBA-OKENE Roadin the evening, abducting a lecturer at the KOGI State College of Education, KABBA a priest Rev Michael LEO and an unidentified RCCG Pastor in the vicinity of IREPENI Village, ADAVI LGA, KOGI State abandoning their 2 vehicles.

3 gunmen attacked ZARAGI MAITO FULANI Camp, WUSHISHI LGA, NIGER State with a Dane gun and cutlass, robbing and injuring men ,stealing N87,000.00, 2 x wrappers and 1 x Tecno phone. Police arrested 3 suspects, recovering 1 x single barrel weapon and 2 x cutlasses.

25 July

The kidnappers of Fr Michael LEO have demanded a N50m ransom reduced to N20m and then N8m, payable by 1.00pm on 26 July 2018

MAKURDI High Court sentenced 2 men to death by hanging for the kidnap and murder of the Vicar General of OTURKPO Catholic Diocese Father John ADEYI in OKUNGAGA Forest, OKPOKWU in April 2016. 2 of the gang of 4 arrested died in custody

26 July

OP Safe Haven paraded several suspects in JOS, PLATEAU State  including a Police Sergeant of the MAIDUGURI Counter Terrorist Unit who was caught selling 180 x 7.62mm round (at N450.00 per round) to a suspected cattle rustler. 8 other siuspects arrested in JOS NORTH, JOS SOUTH, BARKIN LADI and NASARAWA State were arrested for suspected gun running, cattle rustling, robbery and impersonation

Sen Ben BRUCE (PDP, BAYELSA EAST) claimed on social media that gunmen mounted in a Toyota Sienna ambushed Sen Dino MELAYE (PDP, KOGI WEST)  in GWAGWALADA, ABUJA FCT in the morning and abducted him as he was on his way to court.

27 July

Sen Dino MELAYE, reappeared claiming to have escaped from his kidnappers. There has been no independent corroboration of his allegation

A mob attempted to lynch a man suspected of ritually stealing another mans penis in the market in BEJI Village, MAIKUNKELE Division, BOSSO LGA, NIGER State. NPF and local vigilantes attended and placed the man in custody, and fired in the air to try and disperse the mob who were still trying to attack the suspect. 1 teenager was killed by a stray round. Youths blocked the BEJI-ZUNGERU Road in protest

The Army intercepted a Nissan bus along NASARAWA- KEFFI Road carrying 20 people who claimed they were heading to ABUJA, FCT for the National Hunters Association meeting. The vehicle contained 17 x locally fabricated firearms, 135 x cartridges, 2 x locally made pistols, 1 x knife, 3 x cutlasses, 1 x bow and 38 arrows and assorted charms

The Under Secretary General of the UN Office of Counter Terrorism (UNOCT) Vladimir VORONKOV, Assistant Secretary General and Executive Director, Counter Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, Michele CONINSX, Global Programme Manager, and Special Advisor on Preventing Violent Extremism, UNDP, Alexander AVANESSOV and  a UN Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) official concluded a visit to NIGERIA, visiting the Vice President Yemi OSINBAJO, Minister of Internal Affairs and others, to identify areas where the UN can offer assistance to NIGERIA in its campaign against Boko Haram and other terror groups. They also met the Human Rights Commission, Civil Society, Women’s groups and the UN Country Team, visited BULUMKUTU Transit Centre, MAIDUGURI

28 July

A peace agreement was signed between the Fulani and the NYANDAN, MUMUYE and 3 other tribes in MAYOLOPE, LAU LGA, TARABA State binding all adherents to withdraw their respective militias and set up a peace and reconciliation committee

7 gunmen disguised in military style uniforms attempted a robbery in FELELE Area of LOKOJA, KOGI State but were interrupted by an Army patrol who engaged them in a firefight, 3 suspects escaped and 4, including 2 females were arrested. 1 x AK 47, 2 x pump action shotguns, assorted rounds of ammunition were recovered. The suspects claimed to be from BENUE State and stated they were political mercenaries in between criminality. The KOGI State Police Command paraded 2 suspected armed robbers/ kidnappers from Fulani Camp OBAJANA and Fulani Camp, GADA BIU who are alleged to operate along OKENE- LOKOJA Road

Situation External Forces

22 July

Gunmen abducted 11 people in GREA, MAYO SAVA Department, EXTREME NORD Region. Camerounian forces subsequently liberated them

23 July

Gunmen attacked TALAKACHI, MAYO MOSKOTA Arrondissement, MAYO TSANAGA Department, EXTREME NORD Region killing 3 civilians, 1 suspect was killed and another captured

24 July

Camerounian forces claim to have killed a suspected Boko Haram member at night in KOUYAPE, MAYO TSANAGA Department

Gunmen murdered 5 people with bladed weapons in MALLOUMRI- GOUZOUDOU, MAYO SAVA Department at night

Gunmen abducted several villagers out looking for wood in BALJOEL, MAYO TSANAGA Department,

25 July

The villagers abducted from BALJOEL were found beheaded

26 July

Gunmen attacked a man with bladed weapons in GOLDAVI, MAYO MOSKOTA at night

27 July

Gunmen killed a farmer in his fields in ZENEME, MOZOGO Arrondissement, MAYO TSANAGA Department in the morning

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Strategic Thinking Behind Ongoing Insurgent Offensive Operations In Northeast Nigeria- An Analysis

Conflict Studies And Analysis Project


Fulan Nasrullah is a national security policy advisor based in Nigeria. He has worked extensively on understanding the Boko Haram Insurgency. He is a founder of the Conflict Studies And Analysis Project. He sometimes tweets in a personal capacity via @fulannasrullah.

While Conflict Studies And Analysis Project content may contain primary source material, it does not contain information of an official or otherwise classified nature, neither does it represent the official position of any government, organisation, agency or group.

Sourcing And Verification

The analysis contained in this brief is informed by primary source information[1], to which rigorous vetting and verification processes have been applied in order to ensure that the final product is as accurate and reflective of the situation as possible.


  1. Background
  2. The Bolduc Plan
  3. Impact Of Deep Punch I&II On ISWAP Strategic Thinking
  4. Impact of Deep Punch I&II On Jamaa’atu Ahlis-Sunnati Lid-Da’wati Wal-Jihad
  5. Jamaa’atu Ahlis-Sunnati…

View original post 5,052 more words

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Situation North East (Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States)

13 July

Gunmen ambushed elements of 21 Bde and 22 TF Bde mounted in 7 x gun trucks and 2 x Toyota Hilux supported by 8 informants, 1 x vigilante and 2 x hunters from BAMA around 4.00pm in the vicinity of KWAKWA and CHINGORI, BAMA LGA, BORNO State. The clearance op began around 9.40am and was successfully conducted until their vehicles became stuck in the mud, and the enemy engaged them. Friendly forces withdrew in 2 x gun trucks, with others fighting their way out on foot. Air support reportedly arrived the next day and identified 2 of the abandoned vehicles which were destroyed with air strikes. An officer and 2 soldiers were reportedly missing. 10 enemy were reported killed and 4 x AK 47 captured. The Army claims to have repelled the attack with air support inflicting 22 casualties on the enemy and sustaining only 2 wounded.

14 July

Suspected Boko Haram ISWAP Gunmen mounted in vehicles approached JILLI, GEIDAM LGA, YOBE State, from Lake CHAD via GUBIO and attacked a FOB manned by 734 personnel from 81 TF Bde in on the border of YOBE and BORNO State and NIGER Republic around 7.30pm with small arms, VBIEDS and crew served weapons. The enemy used military style vehicles to approach and enter the base, initiating the attack and overrunning the position by 9.10pm. 64 soldiers including the Commander and a wounded vigilante withdrew to NGILEWA, from where a local drove them to DAMAKARWA Village and then to GEIDAM while some soldiers withdrew directly to GEIDAM through the bush. 31 soldiers were reportedly killed and 24 wounded, 3 officers and 9 soldiers were reported missing in action. 2 x CJTF vigilantes were reported killed, 3 wounded and 9 missing. The enemy sustained 10 killed and captured fuel, clothing, ammunition, equipment and vehicles. The enemy also destroyed buildings, 2 x Sino Trucks, 1 x Mack Truck, 1x ambulance and 1 x water tanker.

Gunmen attacked BIDDA, WUBAKA, KAURAMI, NGENGLE and WURO JAURO Villages, MAYO BELWA and DEMSA LGA, ADAMAWA State at night burning over 100 houses in the Fulani villages. It is suspected to be a reprisal attack by local Bile militia from BALI Village.

Gunmen ambushed an 11 vehicle military fighting patrol on MAIDUGURI-KONDUGA-BAMA Road in the vicinity of BOBOSHE Village, BAMA LGA, BORNO State, 5 officers and 18 soldiers were reported killed and 8 trucks destroyed, 3 vehicles withdrew successfully to base

15 July

An NAF Alphajet supported by an ISR platform allegedly sighted enemy forces assembling in the vicinity of BULAGALAYE, where they were attacked with bombs and rockets. ISR identified further enemy positions in the vicinity of KWAKWA, which were subsequently attacked again

17 July

Gunmen ambushed a 23 vehicle commercial convoy between LOGUMANI and MUSSINI Villages, NGALA LGA, BORNO State 16km from GAMBORU around 6.00pm killing up to 27 travellers, looting the vehicles and then burning them

The BORNO/ YOBE Customs Area Comptroller Angbalaga JOSHUA stated that only 3 out of 13 border stations were functioning in BORNO and YOBE States

18 July

Approximately 134 members of the Yan Shila cult surrendered to the DSS in DEMSAWO, JIMETA District, ADAMAWA State. The group is alleged to have committed murder by beheading, gang rapes and street  robberies. Axes, knives, cutlasses and shotgun cartridges were surrendered

19 July

The COAS Lt Gen T.Y. BURATAI, Theatre Commander Maj Gen Rogers NICHOLAS, acting 7 Div GOC Brig Gen Bulama BIU and Army HQ Staff Officers visited 21 Bde in BAMA, BAMA LGA, BORNO State and designated it 21 Special Forces Brigade and then were accompanied by acting Bde Commander Col. A.G. NURA to visit the Gun Boat Company at ALAU Dam, KONDUGA LGA

The NPF IGP Intelligence Response Team supported by BORNO State Police Command and SARS paraded 22 suspected Boko Haram members, including 8 alleged to have taken part in the abductions from GSS CHIBOK in 2014 and facilitated suicide bombers. 11 x AK 47s were recovered

Gunmen mounted in up to 6 vehicles ambushed a 60 vehicle commercial convoy along GAMBORU NGALA-DIKWA Road in the vicinity of RAMIN ALJANU Village, NGALA LGA, BORNO State between LOGUMANI and MUSSINI Village approximately 12km from DIKWA Town with small arms and RPGs, killing up to 27 people and burning 30 vehicles

21 July

UNDP and the German Government concluded a capacity building programme for CJTF vigilantes from ADAMAWA, YOBE and BORNO State at the Citizenship and Leadership Training Centre, JOS, PLATEAU State

Gunmen ambushed a 233 Bn fighting patrol along SASAWA Road in the vicinity of BABBANGIDA, TARMUWA LGA, YOBE State around 12.30pm. Friendly forces fought through the ambush defeating the enemy and inflicting unspecified casualties

Situation North West (Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara States)

15 July

8 Div and the Military Hospital, SOKOTO concluded a medical outreach programme in WURNO, WURNO LGA, SOKOTO State. GOC 8Div Maj Gen Stevenson OLABANJI stated 1,830 people had benefited from distribution of mosquito nets, polio vaccinations and free health checks

Gunmen suspected to be from the Yansakai bandit group attacked villages in DANGULBI District, MARU LGA, ZAMFARA State killing 21 Fulanis on DANGULBI Market Day. The group is allegedly led by an Alhaji LABARAN from KANGON GARACCI Village, DANGULBI District and targets Fulanis on market days

16 July

Gunmen ambushed an NPF patrol along BIRNIN GWARI-FUNTUA Road in the vicinity of TABANNI Village, BIRNIN GWARI LGA, KADUNA State. 2 policemen and 2 attackers were killed in the firefight and 1 x AK 47 recovered

17 July

Gunmen attacked TANGARAM Village, ANKA LGA, ZAMFARA State but were repulsed by the NPF losing 1 suspect killed and 1 x AK 47 and 16 x 7.62mm (AK) recovered.

Gunmen mounted on motorcycles attacked 5 villages, MARADUN LGA, ZAMFARA State in the afternoon killing up to 30 people and stealing livestock and other goods. 5 people were killed in SAKKIDA, 4 in FARIN ZARE, 8 in ORAWA, 7 in GYADDE and 4 in SABON GARI. 7 were reported missing, presumed drowned whilst fleeing into the nearby river.

19 July

The NDA has begun a medical outreach programme in ACHUNA SARKI Village, IKULU Kingdom, ZAGON KATAF LGA, KADUNA State as part of its annual Ex Camp Highland, providing free medical care to 1,000 members of the community and promising to sink a borehole

20 July

1 Bde, 1 Div has begun a joint security operation with elements of 119 FOB NAF, NPF, NSCDC and DSS to clear suspected bandits from GANDI and TABANNI Villages, RABBAH LGA, SOKOTO State, following the attack on 9 July 2018 in the area. The Division spokesman stated that the objective was to clear the LGA and adjoining areas and then act as a blocking force to prevent bandits fleeing and to facilitate the return of IDPs camped in GANDI to their homes

Situation North Centre (Abuja FCT, Bauchi, Benue, Gombe, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, Plateau, Taraba States)

13 July

A 13 year old Fulani boy and 86 cattle were reported missing near BISICHI Village, BARKIN LADI LGA, PLATEAU State, when his teenage companion left to eat. The cattle are suspected to have been moved to FORON as trackers followed hoof prints in that direction

15 July

Up to 4 gunmen ambushed a Police patrol vehicle along WAMBA-AKWANGA Road, in the vicinity of AKWANGA LGA, NASARAWA State around 9.00pm killing 1 and wounding others

16 July

NASARAWA State Police Command stated it had begun to investigate an Islamic sect called Hakika based in TOTO LGA

Police deployed to TUDUNWADA in JALINGO following reports of crowds of youths armed with axes, cutlasses and other weapons disturbing the peace in TUDUN WADA and GADA BOBOJI areas in JALINGO Town and were attacked by local youth with stones, wounding several officers including the TARABA State Commissioner of Police David AKINREMI visited

17 July

Bandits attacked IWARE Market, JALINGO, TARABA State with bladed weapons killing 5 traders from MAYO LOPE, LAU LGA, TARABA State and 1 from DEMSA LGA, ADAMAWA State and stealing their money. The attackers were alleged to be Fulani who followed some of the traders from MAYO LOPE LGA

Up to 5 gunmen ambushed a vehicle carrying Chief Usman AJIBOLA , the Traditional Ruler of JAKURA Town, LOKOJA, KOGI State around 7.00pm between IMOO and IGBONLA Villages, (15km from JAKURA) as he was returning from OWORO Town. Chief AJIBOLA and his driver were abducted whilst the Chiefs son was killed whilst resisting the attackers

Gunmen attacked IWARE Cattle Market, ARDO KOLA LGA, TARABA State killing 6 traders from YANGDANG and a policeman and wounding 15

A clash between 2 rival cult groups in NORTH BANK Market, MAKURDI, BENUE State, wounding one person. A soldier returning to the barracks was suspected to have been killed in the cross fire

Commander Op Safe Haven Brig Gen AGIM paraded 7 suspects from the attacks in BARKIN LADI LGA, PLATEAU State. 2 suspects in the attack ZONGO Village on 23 June 2018, 3 suspects in the attack on JOSHO Village, BOKKOS LGA on 14 July 2018

19 July

Gunmen infiltrated the Federal Polytechnic, IDAH, KOGI State murdering the Works Director Solomon SANI at his home in the campus

Situation External Forces

14 July

Chadian Gen Oumar BIKIMO has been appointed deputy Commander G5 Sahel Force. Gen BIKIMO was previously Chief of Staff Chadian Ministry of Defence, Commander Chadian Forces in CAR (2006-07 and 2008-13), Commander Chadian Forces Mali, Deputy Commander MINUSMA (2014-15)

15 July

Gunmen attacked GOUDOUMBOUL, KOLOFATA Arrondissement, MAYO SAVA Department, EXTREME NORD Region at night killing 2 people and then withdrawing to the Nigerian border

16 July

Camerounian authorities have detained 3 soldiers alleged to have murdered two women and children in MOZOGO

Gunmen attacked Nigerien military positions in the vicinity of BAROUA, DIFFA Region killing 1 soldier and wounding 2. The attackers sustained 10 dead

18 July

Nigerien Interior Minister Mohamed BAZOUM visited an IDP Camp in DIFFA, DIFFA Region

Camerounian authorities have detained another officer LT (Navy) Fabassou ETIENNE who is alleged to have commanded the unit in AYO MOSKOTA, MAYO TSANAGA which alleged murdered two women and children in the viral video

19 July

Gunmen attacked MAYEROM Village south of DABOUA, MAMDI Prefecture, LAC (BOL), Region, CHAD around 9.00pm in the vicinity of Lake CHAD murdering 18 people with bladed weapons wounding 2 and abducting 10 women, one of whom was able to escape. Approximately 3,000 villagers have been evacuated

Gunmen abducted 4 children from BALJOEL, MAYO TSANAGA Department, EXTREME NORD Region

The Chinese Ambassador to the Republic of CAMEROUN Wang Ying WU visited the Camerounian Defence Minister Joseph Beti ASSOMO in YAOUNDE to donate 6.86m Euros to Camerounian Security Forces to boost its peacekeeping and security operations.

21 July

Gunmen attacked GOLDAVI, MAYO TSANAGA Department at night killing one person and stealing 13 sheep

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Defence and Security in an Election Year: Nigeria’s Security Environment

With less than a year to go before Nigeria’s general elections, it is pertinent to think about the defence and security issues that should be troubling the Federations leadership.

As the most populous African nation and the continents biggest economy African peace and prosperity is directly linked to Nigerian stability, thus we will examine the problem from the Internal, Border, Regional, Continental and Global perspectives, analyse and then make recommendations.

INTERNAL: Nigeria’s security issues include but are not limited to conflict between cattle rustlers/ cattle herders/ locals and vigilantes in the North Western states, such as Zamfara, Kaduna, Katsina etc. In the Middle Belt the herdsmen/ famers conflict stretches from Niger State to Adamawa State as well as the semi frozen ethno-religious-political Plateau crisis. In the South-South; Niger Delta militants, oil bunkerers and river pirates operate in Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta, Cross River, Akwa Ibom and Edo States.

In the South East, the non violent neo Biafran agitation ranges from the confrontational IPOB to the co-opted MASSOB.

In the North, the Shia Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) in Kaduna, Kano, Yobe, Sokoto and other northern states continue protesting the murder of their members and detention of their leader by the State.

Across the Federation in there is a large increase in crime and criminality, with human trafficking, cultism, armed robbery, kidnapping, highway robbery and other violent crimes.

Domestic abuse of drugs has risen exponentially, with the abuse of legal pharmaceuticals such as codeine based cough syrups and opioids like tramadol along with cannabis mainly by the lower socio economic class, particularly in the North. Amongst the wealthy and upper middle class, previously unused drugs such as cocaine, crystal meth, ecstasy and party pills are widely abused. This domestic market has created new drug cartels. Narco traffickers from South America use Nigerian ports to tranship drugs via mules and crystal meth and amphetamine factories have been discovered in Nigerian cities.

Analysis: These internal conflicts can be defined by myriad factors but for ease I will define them as either coherent (logical or achievable aims and objectives) or incoherent (illogical, irrational and unachievable aims), localised (within or without a geographic area defined by political, ethnic, sectarian, linguistic, geographic or economic boundaries) or general (not limited by such boundaries), and structured (with a recognisable leadership and command structure) or unstructured (amorphous and leaderless).

Organisations such as IMN, IPOB, Niger Delta militants etc can be considered to be structured, coherent and localised. Conflicts such as herdsmen/ farmers, cattle rustlers etc can be considered general, incoherent (if we discount the inherent logic of criminality) and unstructured. Crises such as Boko Haram can be considered incoherent, localised and structured. The different types of crises require different responses. Organised, coherent and localised conflicts generally provoke the worst response but are slightly easier to resolve, as actors with genuine grievances can be dealt with by using the organs of the state such as the courts, legislation, policy or development to address key grievances. In the case where these grievances are incompatible with the law and normal daily life (such as the imposition of Sharia or secession) these can be mitigated by engagement with and cooption of moderate adherents and the targeted use of law enforcement against fundamentalists and as a last resort force. Disorganised, incoherent and unstructured situations such as kidnappers, cattle rustlers or communal conflicts also require a mix of hard and soft effects but in different proportions. Communal conflicts have at their root a failure of accepted arbitration methods and mechanisms for aggrieved parties to seek redress. The employment of a multitude of accessible and acceptable conflict resolution mechanisms removes the need for parties to resort to force to resolve crises. Swift, fair and transparent punishment for transgressors, breaks the cycle of revenge. For kidnappers and cattle rustlers, basic law and order with aggressive and imaginative policing could be used.

Whilst the responses might be varied, the resources needed are similar; a well resourced, well equipped,  accessible,  mobile police force, efficient law courts and a reactive and accessible government.

BORDER: Nigeria’s border areas, once only disturbed by numerous convoys of smugglers taking fuel and other subsidised goods out and textiles, vehicles and electronics in are now beset by conflict. In the North East the Yobe, Borno and Adamawa borders with Cameroun and Niger Republic are troubled by Boko Haram, to the south east, the Nigeria/ Cameroun border has refugees from Camerouns Anglophone regions crossing the Taraba and Cross Rivers States border and Bakassi militancy and piracy at south eastern border. Cattle rustlers cross into Zamfara, Sokoto and Katsina State from Niger Republic and into Adamawa State from Cameroun. To the West mass smuggling of fuel out of Nigeria and rice, vehicles and other highly taxed goods from Benin Republic creates a shadow economy.

Analysis: the overlapping nature of West African tribal and linguistic groups guarantees contagion, irrespective of the issue. The spill over of Boko Haram into Niger Republic and Cameroun, Bakassi militancy into Cameroun and then back to Nigeria and the Anglophone crisis into Nigeria are all clear examples.

Most of these situations require a comprehensive approach to address the unaddressed socio-political or economic grievances that are their cause, such as the displacement of the Bakassi peoples, economic policies of Nigeria, persecution of the Anglophones in Cameroun etc. Thus security forces can at best manage the immediate and second order effects, such as mass displacement, proliferation of small arms and light weapons, insurgent/ bandit base areas, increased insecurity and banditry, disruption of economic activity, cross border military actions and so on. All of these tasks are manpower intensive, difficult to sustain and carry a financial cost and risk of casualties without the ability to end or affect the outcome of the situation.

REGIONAL: West Africa has several ongoing security issues. In the Sahel, the ongoing French/ US counter terrorism effort, narcotic smuggling from South America, Gambia struggles with its transition from dictatorships whilst other fragile states such as Sierra Leone, Liberia etc deal with the legacies of conflict and under development, piracy pervades the Gulf of Guinea. Political instability and upcoming elections absorb much of the attention in Nigeria, Cameroun, etc.

Analysis: Nigeria’s quasi-hegemonic ambitions in West Africa as expressed unilaterally or multilaterally (i.e. through ECOWAS) whilst resented have helped ameliorate conflicts in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea Bissau, Gambia etc. Nigeria’s retreat from its regional hegemonic ambitions as its leadership became absorbed with the internal politics and patronage of its 4 year election cycle has led to significant crises such as Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Mali etc being dealt with by outside powers especially in Francophone countries. ECOWAS ability to stand out above other Regional bodies with trade and pro democracy policies has been sustained by Nigerian leadership and subsidy. In the absence of this there are insufficient states to take up (and support) that leadership role. Morocco’s recent interest in joining ECOWAS not only challenges Nigerian leadership but could create a power imbalance in the group with unknown consequences. Managing these issues requires significant diplomatic effort, balanced out by economic and cultural initiatives to develop a Nigeria- centric bloc. In the absence of this the West African sub region moves from the proactive model practiced previously to a reactive model such as the Gambia response, with foreign actors predominating.

CONTINENTAL: to the north the continuing Libyan Civil War destabilises the Sahel, frozen conflicts in Western Sahara and Algeria remain. In Central Africa the DRC and Central African Republic remain enmeshed in conflict. Sudan’s infinity civil war continues as does South Sudan’s. Eritrea and Ethiopia remain in conflict, whilst the Somali civil war continues. Burundi seeks to undo it gains since the civil war with a 3rd term bid by the President. Poaching environmental degradation, poor governance and economic mismanagement continue to create micro conflicts and grievances across the continent.

Analysis: the second, third and fourth order effects of these situations manifest themselves in the trafficking of weapons and people as well as drugs and other goods. The destabilising effect of these conflicts has an effect on their neighbours, Chad for example has interests in (and borders with) CAR, Libya and Sudan. This necessitates an allocation of combat power, diplomatic effort and other mechanisms of state, detracting from development or issues of interest to neighbours such as Nigeria like securing the Lake Chad Basin. Theses continental crises also lead to arms races or the intervention of external powers such as the French/ US efforts in the Sahel, US operations in the Horn etc.

GLOBAL: the reordering of the globe and the rise of Asian powers has accelerated with the new US administration. China’s bid for global dominance now looks set to only be challenged by its own hubris as the US consumes itself with dysfunction and the EU remains fixed by its economic and political issues and military weakness. Russia’s resurgence as a credible and competent military and geopolitical power, forces other powers to redirect significant combat, diplomatic and policy bandwidth to countering Russia’s hybrid insurgency against the existing world order. In the Middle East the defeat of Saddam Hussein and dismantling of secular Arab dictatorships, freed Iran to engage in a forward defence and increase its influence provoking a backlash from the Sunni Arab monarchies currently manifesting itself in the Syrian debacle (Iran/ Russia win), Yemen (stalemate) and the American cancellation of the JCPOA. The Middle East further breaks down into the GCC vs Qatar, Turkey’s neo Ottoman ambitions and Israel unconstrained by the US in a loose alliance with Sunni Arab states further dispossessing the Palestinian population and confronting Iran.

Analysis: As only a few of these actors are strong enough to confront each other directly and non of them wishes to risk doing so, they compete asymmetrically through proxies, economically, diplomatically and occasionally violently. The fallout of the GCC squabble has been seen in Somalia, Erdogans obsession with the Gulenist movement has seen Turkey pressure numerous African countries to close Turkish schools (originally opened with Erdogans approval), China has pressured countries to end diplomatic relations with Taiwan. These external pressures threaten the balance of powers within countries and sub regions and risk creating proxy conflicts which have no local drivers beyond hired or co-opted locals, which then domesticate and become local conflicts. Events such as the US reneging on the JCPOA (Iran Nuclear deal) affects oil prices, (a positive for Nigeria) however any kinetic action might cause Iran to activate their proxies, including those in Nigeria. A country of Nigeria’s size and wealth can look to stay above the fray but not the indirect consequences. Nor can Nigeria benefit from these quarrels in the way countries like Djibouti, Somalia etc do, as it is too large and wealthy to be gifted training facilities but not wealthy or powerful enough to influence avoid the consequences. However an inability or disinclination to plan for such events prevents Nigeria from exploiting any opportunities and exposes the country to alot of risks.


Whilst this is not an exhaustive or comprehensive review of security issues pertaining to Nigeria, it can be seen that they are numerous and serious

Whilst Nigeria currently does not face any obvious external foe with the means, motive or ability to threaten it, it possesses myriad internal and regional security threats some of which individually can be considered catastrophic but taken together could be considered existential. Simultaneously events beyond its borders shape the security and geopolitical environment, with second and third order effects creating or exacerbating issues within Nigeria.

Strategic issues: Nigeria is unable to exert significant influence globally, continentally, regionally or even internally because its political leadership is tied into the 4 year political cycle, which consumes a huge amount of time and resource to build alliances, undermine opponents, avoid and initiate probes, steal funds and in their spare time provide a facsimile of governance. Career civil servants no longer possess the professionalism required to conduct the affairs of state divorced from the politics of the day as they are also dependant on patronage.

International relations are not undertaken on the basis of Nigeria’s permanent strategic needs, but short term quick wins such as headline trade or investment deals, arms purchases or the like. Nigeria’s failure to sign the Africa Free Trade Agreement on the basis that the Federal Government needs more time to study it is one such example of a lack of strategic planning or policy.

This means Nigeria will remain a passive observer, reacting to external events, long after the fact rather than anticipating, creating counter measures or attempting to shape events to the countries needs and interests. This also applies to the many slow boiling internal crises, which go through clear and obvious escalations but are routinely ignored by the authorities as they have not yet reached catastrophic levels of death and destruction. Those that have crossed over into violence are minimised.

Operational issues: this lack of strategic thought and planning means the Nigerian security forces cannot plan or organise for the various crises. The police as the primary law enforcement body are undermanned, poorly trained, equipped, led, rewarded and motivated. A centralised command structure does not allow for rapid response to situations, a lack of equipment and training means even when deployed, the police are at best limited to checkpoints, vehicle patrols and guarding key infrastructure. Their interaction with the populace is thus always confrontational, made worse by their routine extortion from the population making the police simply a less worse element of whichever crisis they are reacting to.

This lack of policing capacity means the military is deployed on internal security tasks throughout the country, which not only denudes combat power needed to deal with serious military threats but prevents the military from developing an operational cycle that allows troops to deploy, train, rest, refit, redeploy etc. Troops are either being deployed on operations for years or else moved from crises to crises, with no breaks in between leading to exhaustion and poor morale. Add to this poor administration with pay, feeding, accommodation and welfare issues a perennial complaint, you have an over stretched, demoralised force, constantly on operations. These operations are poorly sustained due to an obsolete and corrupt combat service support element, a huge variety of weapons systems and equipment and poor leadership.


The potential lawmakers and political candidates as well as the electorate could use the election season as an opportunity to ask reasoned questions of the Government and Security apparatus and debate steps such as;

Strategic Defence Review: a holistic review of the Nigerian security environment is needed, addressing not just the current operations but any and all conceivable future threats. Once this has been done the Ministries of Defence and Internal Affairs should be required to produce an update every 5 years.

Equipment Procurement: despite the huge amounts budgeted for defence Nigerian troops are generally poorly equipped and administered. This is a problem that has to be studied empirically and solutions relevant to the culture, physical and operational environment identified, rather than simply pouring money into an inefficient and corrupt structure. One potential remedy could be a semi-autonomous agency which specifies and purchases all weapons and equipment for all the security services, military, police, intelligence and paramilitary, based on their requirements. This allows increased oversight of this sector and also allows Nigeria to get reductions through bulk purchases. This agency could also take all Nigeria’s domestic defence industries under its wing, administering the government owned entities and regulating private ones.

Standardisation: Nigeria has an extraordinary variety of weapons, vehicles and equipment in its inventory, purchased with little or no thought as to how to maintain these systems or sustain them on operations. The plethora or rifles, artillery pieces, MRAPs, MBTs, APCs etc are a Quarter Masters nightmare. Having vehicles from different manufacturers and countries means they need different spare parts, maintenance, training, operators, fuels, lubricants and other consumables. It also means tactics cannot be standardised. A mechanised infantry battle drill that requires 8 soldiers cannot be conducted if vehicles can only carry 6 or 7 and others carry 9 or 10. Using 6 or 7 different rifles or machine guns means that different calibre ammunition is needed, different spares, cleaning kits, etc. All of these not only increase the cost of procuring and maintaining weapons and vehicles, but the sustainment as well.

A comprehensive programme of standardisation of all the weapons and equipment used by Nigerian forces would simplify, supply, maintenance and training, reduce the operational logistic burden thus freeing up capacity and funds.

Budgets: the nature of military, intelligence and police budgets should be openly debated and reviewed periodically, with clear input from civil society, NGO’s and international auditors. Measures to plug leakages and increase transparency such as spot checks, audits, Key Performance Indicators, open tenders etc would be useful.

National Reserve/ National Guard: a lack of manpower to allocate to the numerous security tasks is a recurring theme. This includes having sufficient personnel for routine or specific operations, to respond to emergencies or conduct periodic surges as well as sufficient personnel to stand by to reinforce or replace others.

This can be mitigated by expanding the security forces. However rather than recruiting thousands of full time regular service personnel who require pay, train and equip as well as administer and pay pensions, a system of Reserve/ Auxiliary Forces could be developed.

This could involve integrating the numerous existing vigilante forces scattered across the country into a formal structure. By formalising these groups into the police command, pay and administration structure with appropriate training, leadership and equipment the police increase their numbers with personnel who have a significant amount of local knowledge but without the administrative and pay burden of full time recruits.

The military, Customs and other paramilitary forces could get further manpower from the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), if it was expanded to include an annual intake of all 18-30 year olds, and not just university graduates under 30. These people could provide a fresh batch of personnel every year.

Further trained manpower could be developed by use of a Military Reserve/National Guard type force, with civilians undergoing military training and joining Reserve/ National Guard units which could be activated to reinforce the Regular Army.

Communications and Mobility: Nigeria is a vast country with varied terrain, many population centres lie off main roads and are only reachable by air or through uncompleted roads. This makes the task of security forces much more difficult. A comprehensive security review of Nigeria’s transport network should be undertaken to ensure the rapid movement of the security forces. At the same time the security forces organic mobility on land, water or in the air would need to be reviewed particularly the logistics, maintenance, fuel and other support infrastructure. The state of the telecommunications network should be reviewed to identify weaknesses in the network and opportunities to improve and or replace the existing or supplement it with a new system, so as to aid the rapid reporting of crime

Data and mapping: policing, disaster and emergency relief, military operations and development are all hampered by a dearth of accurate data and maps. Modern cartography is much cheaper and easier than the days of surveyors and theodolites, UAVs can map large or small areas with different parameters such as land use, water resource etc. The correct recording of demographic data, medical, crime figures etc, helps in the planning for taskings.

Force multipliers: involves identifying things which can produce an exponential effect. This can be training, technical, education, personnel, skills, vehicles etc. For example a trained EOD or CIED specialist allows a unit to defuse explosive devices, a UAV enables situational awareness, a local hunter knows the terrain of an operational area. Identifying force multipliers in particular areas is a key way to maximise the effectiveness of security force operations.

Information and Intelligence: the collection, collation and dissemination of intelligence needs to be demystified and brought down to the local level where it can be utilised. The top heavy, highly centralised and competitive systems in place does not seem to work in a huge, diverse country. Building a vast surveillance state comes with its own dangers however these can be mitigated with appropriate safeguards, allowing decision makers to operate effectively.

Conflict resolution: the lack of recognised and accessible pathways to seek redress leaves aggrieved parties with the option of either accepting a perceived grievance or taking matters into their own hands. In most cases due to the absence of effective governance, people take matters into their own hands. A way of arresting this is to have number of conflict resolution mechanisms at the community, local government, state and Federal level that can be used to resolve disputes, in a fair, timely and cost effective manner. If people believe they can get redress legitimately they are less likely to resort to violence

Justice reform: the inability of the Government to catch and try criminals is a source of discontent. By reforming the courts, prosecution and prison service, faith in the system can be restored

Police reform: the police need to be reformed in terms of training, equipment, models of policing, communication etc.

Military reform: a key part of any Defence Review must involve looking at the military and deciding if its fit for purpose, which parts are working and which parts are not and why? Questions as to the optimal platoon, company or battalion’s size, best rifle, best unit organisation, doctrine, tactics etc should be asked. Objective review of the utility of the Navy and its ability to protect the coast, inland waterways, littoral waters and project power or sustain an expeditionary operation. A review of the Air Force would study whether its operations are distinct from the Army’s beyond close air support and transport. A no holds barred review  could throw up surprising results which could redefine and refine a more efficient Armed Forces.

Nigerianisation: the lack of depth in Nigeria’s defence industry belies the countries resources and abilities. A way to ameliorate this would be to insist on a Nigerianisation clause in all future procurements, in which equipment is assembled in country, joint ventures are made with foreign defence companies in order to manufacture as many pieces of equipment from boots to water bottles to helmets/ body armour as possible in country. Local universities and technical colleges could be set challenges to solve technical problems


It can be argued that almost all of Nigeria’s immediate security problems are internal or on its borders and can be said to stem from a lack of governance and leadership.

Whilst many of the problems are serious, they are not insurmountable.

Posted in Counter insurgency, Crime, Defence, Geopolitics, Gulf of Guinea, Military planning, Nigeria Defence, Nigeria Strategy, Peace support, Peacekeeping, Stabilisation, Terrorism, West Africa Defence, West Africa Strategy | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thai Cave Rescue: Operational Lessons and Principles

Like most of the world the author has been fascinated by the exhilarating rescue of 12 Thai schoolboys and their football coach from a flooded cave complex in a mountain in Thailand.

There are several key factors of the operation that hold a pertinent lesson for Nigeria (or any other country) during operations such as this. This review will be deliberately devoid of names/ specifics as I wish to look at the underlying principles which will be broken down into 2 categories the Technical and the Moral Components.

The Technical Component

Command structure: operation had a clear chain of command. Whilst the State Governor exercised executive command, the operational aspects were under the command and control of the military commander, as far as can be seen the operation was carried out with little political interference at any level and decisions were made purely for operational rather than political reasons. Equally political leadership at the national level, kept their distance offering support but not interfering

Allocation of resources: the operation was extremely resource intensive, using 100s of metres of pipe, pumps, generators, oxygen, specialists and professional divers were needed as were people with local knowledge etc. A significant number of personnel were also needed for mundane tasks like security, carting goods or labour. The accumulation and allocation of these resources took place rapidly with the minimum of fuss.

Use of specialists: the use of specialists and those with specialised knowledge was instrumental to the successful completion of the mission. The Thai authorities were able to use their own organic military diving capability and the local cave diving community to tap into the wider cave diving community to bring in skilled volunteers. These were supplemented by the Thai SoF divers, who whilst tough and skilled divers were not experienced in this environment. Importantly the Thai authorities did not defer exclusively to foreign experts or bring in a foreign contractor to run the operation for them, they used the foreign experts appropriately for their niche skills whilst using the local experts to conduct enabling tasks, until they were able to operate in that environment as well.

Media management: the media was engaged throughout, given the correct, timely information and allowed to broadcast freely. However key information was controlled as well as certain types of access. The boys and their families were protected from media intrusion as were the rescuers. No inaccurate information was released and whatever came out was in a timely fashion without sensation or hyperbole. This messaging meant that the media had enough news to avoid wild speculation and the irresponsible pursuit of scoops by hounding the families, it also meant the public and wider audience was fully engaged and supporting the rescuers efforts.

Forward basing: once the boys were discovered one of the wider caverns was converted to a forward operating base. This action was critical as it not only allowed the forward basing of supplies but also allowed the commanders and operators to work closer to their objective reducing travel time. Mentally and psychologically, being based in the caves would have allowed the commanders to have much better situational awareness and make plans that were logical and suited to the operating environment.

Lead from the front: the commanders remained on site, organising and leading. Once the boys were discovered, doctors and Navy Seals stayed in the cave with them, coming out last. This act not only reassured the boys and coach but also allowed the commanders to have a constant presence and realistic understanding of the situation with the boys. It also meant that if an emergency had arisen they had skilled personnel on site to assist the boys.

Contingencies: many alternative methods of rescue were identified, planned and tried out. From pumping out water, to finding and alternate entry point, looking for chimneys, drilling down to them, mini submarines or even waiting till the next dry season. None of the alternatives worked but by taking them seriously, the commanders gave themselves the flexibility to be able to rapidly switch focus if the main effort had failed.

Understanding constraints: this was an operation constrained by the weather, seasonal changes, geography, specialised skills, specialised equipment, malnourished, frightened boys. The commanders identified and worked round these constraints

Enabling environment: the success of the operation depended on an enabling environment. Experts were able to rapidly fly in as there were no visa restrictions on entry to Thailand, there are regular scheduled flights and good internal travel. The specialist skills and equipment needed were available due to Thailand’s well developed tourist industry. The military and Special Forces had the training and professionalism to respond to such an eventuality and more importantly were empowered and confident enough to take risky decisions in order to complete the operation. Whilst none of these factors were created to facilitate a rescue, without them the task would have been impossible.

Logistics: the rescue took place in a cave up a mountain. Both of these are the very definition of difficult terrain thus a well managed logistics effort was needed to not just get personnel and equipment up there but to keep it operating. Feeding and sustaining the large number of rescuers, providing sanitation and accommodation all took place relatively seamlessly within the 18 days of the operation.

Knowledge, Training and Experience: without skilled trained people the operation would have failed. The commanders who could organise and plan, trained specialists who had the appropriate skills, professional Special Forces operators who could execute a new and complex task with minimal fuss. The commanders were knowledgeable enough to make informed decisions but also to know what they didn’t know and call in external experts. These commanders, opertrs and experts had the experience to be confident in their skills and decisions

Flexibility: the commanders were able to utilise multiple approaches to success, transport options ranged from helicopters to human carriers, divers ranged from professional cave divers to Navy Seals, they were able to move teams from searching the caves to laying pipes and manning pumps. This flexibility allowed them to react to changing events rapidly.

The Human Component: this category concerns the intangible but important human factor, the morale and psyche of those involved, including the rescued, rescuers, civilian population and wider world.

Positive Outlook: the authorities continued to maintain a positive outlook throughout the operation, targets were realistic and positive without being ridiculous.

Expectations Management: from the outset whilst maintaining resolve and a positive outlook the authorities sought to manage expectations, even after the boys were found in the cave, generous but realistic time scales were given for a resolution and worst case scenarios were given public airing. This meant people were prepared for all eventualities and positive news was welcomed

Use of narrative: The rescue developed its own narrative of cooperation and resilience. This was eagerly adopted by the populace with key members of government reinforcing this narrative as well as members of the public, in the traditional and on social media.

Resilience and persistence:  resilience and persistence informed the successful outcome. The resilience of the boys and their coach in moving to higher ground and organising themselves until discovered, the rescuers persistence in exploring the cave even after several days had passed with no obvious hope, the rescuers resilience in being able to conduct the dive in difficult conditions. Without these qualities the operation could not have succeeded.

Religion: local religious leaders remained at the site praying and giving offerings. Their presence was important and supportive but not obtrusive. The religious leaders were able to give families comfort, provide moral support for the rescuers and volunteers but did not interfere with the rescue or create distractions by trying to claim they had any divine inkling as to how to solve the problem.

Acceptance of Risk: the risks of the endeavour were made clear by the tragic death of a volunteer diver. Despite this the operation continued. The risks were accepted and the operation continued with the volunteers understanding that their lives could be lost. In other words they accepted that self sacrifice would possibly be needed to achieve the mission. At the same time the leaders and commanders took the less consequential but still important professional risks in authorising the search and the rescue.


A clearly defined Command structure, enabled the operation to have had a rapid and successful outcome. The commanders had the independence to request and allocate resources, and ‘fight the battle’ (as it were) to the best of their abilities. However the management of the ‘human’ side of the operation were equally excellent, the crisis was not politicised or personalised and was used as an opportunity to rally the nation behind the boys and the rescuers. There were no accusations of the crisis being faked to embarrass the political leadership. Commanders understood their environment and the importance of maintaining a positive but realistic outlook so as to manage the expectations of the populace. It what was an inherently risky operation from the outset, the commanders were comfortable with risks and had the enabling environment to work with them. There was no fear of ‘Oga at the top’, stultifying any progress.

Local people, culture and religion were engaged to positively support the operation rather than hinder or interfere with it. By shaping a positive narrative of unity, solidarity and hope, the crisis became a national rallying point and an international good news story.


Military operations are a mixture of arts and science. The art is the planning and decision making, whether to go over a hill, round it or under it, where to attack, where to feint, when to yield and when to hold. Whilst unglamorous and ‘boring’ the science of logistics- how much fuel is needed, how much ammunition is needed, what is the best vehicle, type of equipment or weapon to execute the mission, where to resupply and how etc . These are mathematical equations of time, distance, weight, quantity, volume calculations. A commanders job is to either use science to support the art or create art around the science.

When the complete report of this operation is published it will hold many key operational lessons for military, emergency and civil defence operations.

Posted in Military planning, Rest of the world | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Geopolitics in the time of Novichok: Russian Influence Operations against Britain

The attempted murder of an exchanged Russian former agent in Wiltshire using a nerve agent particular to Russia, is one of the most dramatic recent provocations from the Russian Federation, which gives a clear indication of Russia’s Strategic intent.

The attack was against a double agent who would have virtually no practical or symbolic value to anyone, using a method so specific that it could only have come from the former Soviet Union. The Russians have not even mounted a vigorous defence, they have simply dismissed the claims with contempt.

What does this mean:

The attack can be seen as another phase in Russia’s campaign of Hybrid warfare against its enemies and rivals, much like the Russian operation in Crimea, the influence operation against the US elections and against other European elections.

This was clearly a strategic operation designed to have a strategic effect that can be specifically tied to Brexit and a reshaping of the post US/ UK era.

Brexit is the final stage of a series of crises from the Eurozone financial crises, to the wave of illegal migrants that have exposed divisions in the European Union, putting the 3 great powers of Europe, UK, France and Germany in competition.

Brexit has also ruptured Britain’s internal unity, within the Cabinet, political parties and the population at large. It threatens to fracture the Kingdom, giving Scottish independence a second wind and apparently achieving for Northern Irish nationalists what 38 years of armed struggle could not.

As Russia comes up to a general election it struggles with a moribund economy, a vocal if impotent opposition and several frozen conflicts in Syria, Ukraine an Islamic insurgency in the Caucasus and other conflicts in her near abroad.

In this context this crisis can be seen as an unparalleled opportunity to generate internal popular support, rupture European unity, and the US/ UK special relationship.

Within the EU, the effect on national economies of sanctions on Russia, the dependence on Russian gas have dampened the enthusiasm for further actions on Russia. The UK has lost its leadership role due to the fractious Brexit debate but even prior to that massive defence cuts have weakened the elements of the British Armed Forces that actually concern Russia and have allowed it to have credibility on the continent. The UKs enthusiastic welcome to Russian individuals and money of dubious extraction whilst at the same time engaging Russia with sanctions means the UK is vulnerable to a loss of a huge amount of funds and business as well as accusations of hypocrisy.

The US is struggling with its internal divisions generated by the 2016 elections. President Trumps inexperienced administration has generated a huge amount of controversy and is vulnerable to accusations of collaborating with Russia to win the election. The allegations of kompromat have done almost as good a job as any actual kompromat would have, leaving the US with an incoherent and disjointed foreign policy.

The attempted murder of a Russian dissident in such an obvious manner is propaganda of the deed in extremis, a clear message to allies and opponents of Russia of their resolve and capabilities. The fact that it was so public and obvious shows Russia has the means to reach its enemy’s and does not fear the consequences. Equally important is the reaction of the UK; such a public attack is the equivalent of shooting a few bullets in the direction of your enemy to make him respond. Britain’s credibility and ability to project power post Brexit depends on her response and how much support is given by friends and allies, a form of strategic reconnaissance by force.

Taking all these into account Russia’s alleged actions can be considered to  have 4 key objectives, generate popular support within Russia, demonstrate Britain’s weakness, separate Britain from the EU and separate Britain from the US.

Britain’s weakness:

Russian dissidents and exiles have died in the UK in much more conventional yet suspicious circumstances with a fairly tepid response from the UK. Litvinenko’s public enquiry was actively resisted by the current Prime Minister as Home Secretary. Britain’s greed for Russian oligarch money makes the UK corrupt and vulnerable in Russian eyes. The continuous denuding of Britain’s armed forces as well as the strategic defeats and operational challenges of UK Armed Forces in Afghanistan and Iraq also demonstrate weakness in Russia’s eyes. Brexit thus constitutes the final element of this decline, in that Britain’s ability to have an influence on the EU will end in 2019, whilst the bad blood from the negotiations will likely poison bilateral relations. Britain’s influence in NATO is likewise denuded by its falling military strength. A public humiliation such as this demonstrates Britain’s weakness to its leadership but to its population, further fomenting internal upheaval.

Britain and the EU:

Britain is already separating from the EU and is doing a fairly good job of alienating European partners by itself, making the task of creating and coordinating a unified response to Russian provocations difficult. This again demonstrates Britain’s weakness but also serves as a warning to other European powers that actions against Russia will most likely not be supported by their peers. The sanctions regime is unpopular in many European countries due to the effect on trade and energy supplies, the hope is that after Putin’s re-election he will have the flexibility to make certain concessions, giving European powers the excuse to relax sanctions. It is possible the Russians calculate this action will deter the hardliners such as Germany and Poland and neutralise the waverers.

Britain and the US

Britain’s special relationship has deteriorated from the heady highs of World War 2. British support for the interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan were meant to rekindle this relationship however, poor operational outcomes and British defence cuts have removed much of the lustre. It is a relationship that subsists mostly on nostalgia, with the US finding a more ready partner in France and other local powers around the globe.

With the advent of the Trump Presidency and the turmoil within US politics and government, the certainties of the rule and treaty based system the US developed post World War 2 has been disrupted. President Trumps insecurity due to his inexperience and personality, legacies of his personal and business life as well as the determined and inexorable fight back by US institutions, most notably represented by the Mueller investigation.

In this setting Trumps inclination will be to do what ever makes him look the most positive to his base. Whilst a strong response to any Russian provocation would be popular, it also damages his narrative of being the person who will restore positive relations with Russia. Trumps unpopularity in Britain also means he is temperamentally less inclined to lend support. Tepid or non-existent support would be devastating to the UK, removing one of the key planks of its post World War 2 strategic assumptions, that the US would provide military and diplomatic support to the UK at all times. The sacking of Rex Tillerson who understood these strategic paradigms and his replacement with a Trump loyalist may have been pre planned but is exceptionally ill timed and serves the narrative of a pro Russia Trump.

So What?

Britain is in a bind. Even if the UK had the will (which it doesn’t) or the means (which it doesn’t) to pay Russia back in its own coin with assassinations or attacks, Russia has a clear advantage in skills, motivation and assets to be able to sustain a war of attrition longer than Britain. If the UK responded with other non kinetic effects such as cyber attacks etc, Russia again has a developed state and affiliated non state capability. Britain can react with more sanctions but without the support of Europe and the US it has little hope of getting buy in from the rest of the world or enforcing them. It can expel diplomats but this tired formula will simply see British diplomats expelled. It can boycott the world cup jeopardising contracts and ruining English fans chance of seeing their team knocked out in the 2nd round.

The only actions the UK can take that will have an effect would be a comprehensive use of anti money laundering tools and asset seizures for Russian individuals and businesses. Targeting Putin’s inner circle and slowly expanding outwards would send a clear message but that would have to be balanced by the destabilising effect, that the flight of Russian capital flight would have one the just about managing economy, which is bracing itself for Brexit. It would also affect Putins opponents as well as his cronies, neither of which action is problematic for Putin as reducing the wealth of some of his allies, reduces the possibility of them turning on him.

But the most important factor is whatever response the UK decides on, will fit into Russia’s narrative of Western plots and conspiracies to undermine the country in general and the upcoming election in particular. A weak British response allows Putin to demonstrate to his people that he was able to interfere in America and humiliate Britain without consequence. A robust British response allows Putin to retaliate in kind and reinforce the narrative of perfidious Western interference and conspiracies.


This is another well planned and executed Russian influence operation, projecting an image of Russian, skill, strength and omnipotent reach.

Like the US election influence operation, the short term effects are beneficial to Russia and help their central narrative. The long term effects are less clear, it is entirely possible the EU will rally around Britain separating defence and security from the Brexit debate, strengthening the alliance, the push back from the US legislative and Republican Party could force robust action from the US. It could even give Trump an excuse to implement the stronger measures from Congress as it does not feed into the Russian collusion narrative.

In the short term however, this is Putins world and the rest of the world is merely visiting.

Posted in Defence, Geopolitics, Rest of the world, Terrorism | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment


Situation North East (Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States)

24 December

Gunmen attacked KAMALE Village, MICHIKA LGA, ADAMAWA State around 11.00pm killing 4 people and wounding several others. Citizens fled into the mountains

25 December

Gunmen mounted in pick up trucks attacked a checkpoint in the vicinity of MOLAI, JERE LGA, BORNO State on the outskirts of MAIDUGURI, around 5.30pm, the attack was initiated by an enemy vehicle infiltrating a convoy returning from DAMBOA and engaging friendly forces. Enemy forces from the vicinity of CASHEW Plantation and JIDDARI POLO then attacked. The enemy was repelled after a 2-hour firefight with air support resulted in burning some vehicles and huts. 4 dead were reported and a woman allegedly abducted

Senior officers from Army HQ spent Christmas with troops at 26 TF Bde, GWOZA, GWOZA LGA, BORNO State and 27 TF Bde, BUNI YADI, GUJBA LGA, YOBE State

28 December

A suspected male PBIED disguised as a grain merchant detonated in a market in AMARWA Village, KONDUGA LGA, BORNO State around 11.30am killing himself and 5 other people and wounding 18

Gunmen mounted in pick ups attacked a checkpoint along the Federal Highway in YOBE State. Friendly forces killed 10 and captured 4 pick up trucks

Suspected nomadic gunmen attacked TAMBOH JIMOH, GIREI LGA, ADAMAWA State killing 1 and wounding 4

30 December

Up to 16 gunmen mounted on up to 6 motorcycles attacked a firewood loggers in the vicinity of MAIWA Village, MAFA LGA, BORNO State around 2.30pm killing 25 out of 53 IDPs from MUNA Garage Camp. The loggers were IDPs from MUTARI, ZANGALE, ANZAMALA and KUMBULLA. The attackers burnt 3 trucks stole the loggers trucks 5.45pm to attack the position, but were defeated following with the help of NAF close air support

Gunmen ambushed vehicles along MAIDUGURI-DAMBOA Road stealing food stuffs

Gunmen mounted in 7 x Toyota Hiluxes and disguised in military style uniforms attacked friendly positions in the vicinity of KAM Village advancing through the centre of KANAMA, YUNUSARI LGA, YOBE State around 5.45pm to attack the position, reportedly killing 5, with 30 reported missing but were defeated following with the help of NAF close air support

Situation North West (Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara States)

23 December

Gunmen mounted on motorcycles attacked a Filling station in PANDOGARI Town, RAFI LGA, NIGER State around 8.30pm killing 3 people and abducting the filling station manager and 2 others. The abductees were taken to ALAWA Forest, SHIRORO LGA, where one of the motorcycles developed a fault, allowing one of the victims to go free. The kidnappers have demanded N3m each from Community leaders

24 December

Gunmen attacked UNGUWAN MAILAFIYA, KWAGIRI District, GWONG Chiefdom, JEMA’A LGA, KADUNA State around 10.00pm killing up to 6 people and wounding 8

9 gunmen dressed in military style uniforms mounted in a Toyota Hilux and Peugeot 406 attacked a house in KAWU, KAGARKO LGA, KADUNA State asking for the mother of the former Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce of Pension Reforms Abdulrasheed MAINA. Upon neither being found they handcuffed and abducted the security guard and dumped him along MANDO Road near KADUNA International Airport, from whence he went to a police station to have the handcuffs removed

Additional troops equipped with patrol vans and motorcycles have been deployed to Southern KADUNA State

25 December

Elements of the DSS raided GAYAWA Town, UNGOGO LGA, KANO State, searching for suspected Boko Haram members around 2.40am. An elderly resident was shot by mistake and 2 of his sons subsequently detained

28 December

The KEBBI State Governor visited ALJANNARE, BAGUDO LGA following a clash between Fulani herdsmen and farmers which led to two deaths

Situation North Centre (Abuja FCT, Bauchi, Benue, Gombe, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, Plateau, Taraba States)

24 December

Up to 4 gunmen mounted on motorcycles attacked UTONKON Village, ADO LGA, BENUE State with pump action shotguns around 2.00pm, killing 3 and wounding 5. Police arrested 1 person with a shotgun

25 December

Suspected cult members barricaded streets with burning tyres in BWARI, ABUJA FCT, allegedly protesting the murder of one of their number the previous day. The group moved from the market towards the Emirs Palace, burning several shops. The FCT Minister Malam Mohammad BELLO declared a 6.00am to 6.00pm curfew

26 December

The BORNO, YOBE and ADAMAWA State Governments in conjunction with UNDP has completed the first batch of a series of 3 week training course for up to 2,000 CJTF vigilantes on capacity building in JOS, PLATEAU State as part of the German funded Integrated Regional Stabilisation Project of the Lake CHAD Basin

27 December

The NPF KOGI State Command paraded 5 gangs of suspected kidnappers/ cattle rustlers/ armed robbers at Force Command HQ, LOKOJA, 10 suspected kidnappers were alleged to have been behind the abduction and subsequent murder of a Portuguese migrant worker and his two police guards, 5 suspected cattle rustlers who robbed and murdered a herdsman. 11 x AK 47, 2 x Beretta 9mm, 2 x revolvers, 334 x 7.62mm (AK), 6 x 9mm, 1 x locally fabricated revolver, 2 x locally made pistols, several pairs of fake military style uniforms and 54 x cattle were recovered

28 December

Up to 30 gunmen mounted in 3 buses attacked THAZA Community, SULEJA TOWN,SULEJA LGA, NIGER State around 6.30am. the gunmen blocked entrances and exits to the community and robbed residents for 2 hours

A clash broke out after a Mumuye farmer was attacked by a young Fulani herdsman whose cattle were grazing in a guinea corn farm in MINDA, LAU LGA, TARABA State. The young boy also attacked a passerby who tried to break up the fight. The Fulani boys father was subsequently ambushed by Mumuye youths after he went to visit the family of the murdered farmer, resulting in 2 more deaths

Gunmen mounted in a red Toyota abducted Atser KYAUSU, an 80 year old man from his home in VANDEIYKA LGA, BENUE State. His son a businessman in the oil sector was yet to be contacted for ransom

29 December

2 gunmen dressed in Police style uniforms shot and killed a grain merchant at his home near MAKURDI Bridge, MAKUDRI, BENUE State around 7.00pm

30 December

Up to 6 gunmen mounted on motorcycles abducted a TARABA State House of Assembly Member Hosea IBI from his house opposite TAKUM Barracks, TAKUM, JALINGO around 10.27pm

Situation External Forces

24 December

Italian Prime Minister Paolo GENTILONI stated ITALY may transfer up to 470 troops from the 1,400 that were being withdrawn from IRAQ to NIGER Republic

26 December

Camerounian forces released 16 hostages from BENOUE National Park, BENOUE Department, NORD Region

28 December

Gunmen attacked GOULKIDAYE, MAYO MOSKOTA Arrondissement, MAYO TSANAGA Department, EXTREME NORD Region at night killing 1 person

A Camerounian Military Court released the former Mayor of FOTOKOL, Ramat MOUSSA who had been arrested in September 2014 on suspicion of selling weapons to Boko Haram and helping them sell looted goods. He had also helped in several hostage negotiations.

29 December

2 x suspected female PBIEDs attempted to infiltrate KORDO, KOLOFATA Arrondissement, MAYO SAVA Department in the morning but were spotted by local vigilantes and detonated killing themselves and 1 other person.

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