OP RESTORE ORDER SITREP- Week Ending 21 September 2013

Situation Friendly Forces:

12 September: The Nigeria Army claims that troops from 81 Battalion, 7 Division, carried out a deliberate attack on 2insurgent camps in the KAFIYA Forest, NGAZAI LGA, BORNO State along the BAGA- MAIDUGURI Road  killing approximately 150 insurgents with 16 friendly soldiers killed (1 Lieutenant and 15 other ranks) and 9 missing. The enemy camp was allegedly well fortified with vehicle mounted anti tank and anti aircraft weapons. Amongst the enemy dead was a High Value Target Abba GOROMA (who had a N10m bounty on him). Other reports attribute the attack to 134 Battalion, 12 Brigade and the insurgent camp to KANGARWA village

16 September: 18 soldiers convicted at General Court Martial of a variety of offences ranging from communication with the enemy, cowardice, murder and manslaughter. Arraigned by 3 Armoured Division, JOS for offences committed while part of the JTF and STF, the sentences handed out to the lieutenant, warrant office and 16 other ranks range from the death penalty to jail sentences

17 September: Schools in YOBE State reopen for the first time since the attack on Government College, MAMUDO

Combined Army, police and other security forces deploy to KAFANCHAN, KADUNA State in reaction to insurgent attack the previous day

20 September: a combined Nigerian security forces team killed 7 people in an uncompleted residence in APO LEGISLATORS QUARTERS, ABUJA whilst allegedly searching for an arms cache at 12.30am. 12 people were arrested, 17 injured. Two captured Boko Haram members Kamal ABDULLAHI and Mohammed ADAMU allegedly provided the information. Local residents state the occupants were not terrorists but homeless squatters who worked as tricycle drivers and had repeatedly refused to leave the property despite the owners (reportedly a military man) protestations

Situation Enemy Forces:

12 September: unverified sources claim 40 soldiers killed and 65 missing in an ambush by insurgents. In an alleged ‘fog of war’ incident troops from 134 Battalion, 12 Brigade attached to the MNJTF based in KANGARWA village discovered an undiscovered insurgent base along the BAGA-MAIDUGURI Road. A ground assault was planned by 100 troops (i.e. a company attack) with air support. The preparatory air strikes were allegedly cancelled at the last minute leaving the troops to attack prepared positions unsupported. The Ministry of Defence disputes the casualty figures.

16 September: armed insurgents attacked KAFANCHAN, JEMA’A LGA, KADUNA State no casualties recorded on either side.

17 September: insurgents disguised as soldiers attacked BENISHIEK, KAGA LGA around 5.00pm using small arms, RPGs and IEDs, set up illegal check points on the DAMATURU-MAIDUGURI Road, killing at least 161 people including 142 travelers, abducting an unknown number of men and women and at least 2 buses and burning approximately 150 buildings, 20 trailer trucks and 30 other vehicles. The attackers were approximately 30 in number and operated until approximately 4.00am. They seemed to target people from MAIDUGURI in particular, who were allegedly decapitated whilst non Borno citizens were shot. 3 soldiers, 2 policemen and 14 vigilantes were killed and the military base burnt down. The insurgent who lead the attack is alleged to be a native of the town named Ba’a KAKA. The insurgents apparently came in 20 pick ups including 2 vehicles mounted with AA guns (described as light tanks) and allegedly captured 4 more pickups, a truck of food and 2 other fighting vehicles from the Army after they withdrew due to lack of ammunition

18 September: insurgents armed with AK 47s, RPG’s and IEDs attacked YADI BUNI, GUJBA LGA, YOBE State around 10.00pm killing a soldier and a civilian. The police station, fire station and other buildings were burnt down

19 September: insurgents allegedly killed 34 civilians near LIMANTI Village, KONDUGA LGA along the MAIDUGURI-BIU Federal Highway

Insurgents kill 16 travelers on the MAIDUGURI-DAMBOA Road, this same group also allegedly robbed a bank bullion van and killed a 3 Policemen and 5 bank officials.

20 September: insurgents allegedly killed 26 people near BULABULIN NGAURA Village, DAMBOA LGA, BORNO State along DAMBOA-MAIDUGURI Road

Situation Other Forces:

14 September: BORNO based vigilantes captured 11 suspected insurgents others in MICHIKA, ADAMAWA State, 5 were taken to MUBI, where 4 died of injuries sustained during their capture and 6 to MAIDUGURI

17 September: vigilantes in conjunction with elements of 23 Armoured Brigade arrested several insurgents in ADAMAWA State

Vigilantes from the BYVG detain 19 suspected insurgents in 5 villages bordering the SAMBISA GAMES RESERVE, KONDUGA LGA, recovering an unspecified number of rifles and unspecified quantity of ammunition

20 September: vigilantes reinforce MAIDUGURI In anticipation of attacks by insurgents at the weekend

Statistics

Table 1 Casualties

  Killed Wounded Missing/ Detained
NPF

2

??

0

NA

7

??

0

Total NSF

9

??

0

Vigilantes

14

 

0

Insurgents

4

0

Male:  

26

Female:

0  

Civilian

224

??

??

 

Table 2 Captured insurgent equipment

AK47

 

Pistol 9mm 7.62 Ammo IEDs Vehicles Motorcycles RPGs Cash 

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

 

Table 3 Insurgent incidents

Insurgent Incidents  IED Vehicle IED Suicide IED Small Arms Small arms+IED Other wpns Theft Kidnapping
0 0 0 3 3 0 1 0

 

Analysis:

1.       Crisis management:

The Boko Haram counter offensive has begun. We will examine the nature of this counter strike and its implications and possible counter measures.

Boko Haram reacted predictably to the NSF offensive, by withdrawing from its safe areas. The full extent of their casualties and losses cannot be discerned but as heavy as they were it is unlikely to be decisive in view of huge amount of cheap weaponry and experienced manpower in the region.

The most significant dividend of the offensive was the formation of vigilantes. The fact that these groups rose virtually spontaneously were a clear indication that Boko Haram had lost the battle for hearts and minds. More importantly these vigilantes had the local knowledge to have a clearly negative effect upon Boko Harams operations.

I would suggest Boko Haram’s intention was to infiltrate Maiduguri and other population centres and suck the security forces away from the forests and border areas where BH had found sanctuary. They also sought to expand operations to the North West for much the same reason.

The latter failed due to good intelligence work, the former due to the vigilantes who had a knowledge of local personalities, languages and customs and were able to act as a force multiplier when working with the security forces, identifying suspects, female helpers, cross dressers etc.

Boko Haram obviously realised this and calculated the vigilantes were currently the biggest danger but also the most vulnerable part of the security apparatus. Thus attacks were concentrated against vigilantes and against their host communities in order to reinforce the message that crossing Boko Haram was a bad idea. This has led to an absolutely appalling civilian casualty rate, with civilians killed in what would seem to be deliberately gruesome ways and in deliberately unsettling places such as schools and mosques.

Boko Harams wide ranging and brutal attacks against soft targets obviously had the desired effect of tying up the security forces and vigilantes, giving them the space needed to concentrate in new safe areas and reequip with captured vehicles and other mounted heavy weapons.

It is unclear whether the attack of Thursday 12th was a deliberate spoiling attack by the Nigerian security forces, a reconnaissance in force or just a routine fighting patrol gone wrong but what it did show was that there were enough enemy forces concentrated in one place to inflict significant casualties on the security forces.

The outcome of this battle notwithstanding the enemy was then able to mount a serious vehicle mounted attack (using vehicles described as light tanks, I am assuming these are captured Panhard VBLs), defeating a relatively light security force but more importantly holding their ground uncontested and murdering with impunity for over 8 hours and then withdraw in good order with captured vehicles.

Tactically this feat is inconsequential, however operationally and strategically it is a bold declaration of intent and capability.

So What?

One of the fundamental questions every commander from platoon to corps level faces is when to commit your reserve. The reserve element of any fighting force is there to reinforce success or rescue failure. The litmus test of most successful commanders has always been the ability to recognise that success or failure and to decide at which point intervention is necessary. Napoleons entire career as a general rose and fell on that quality. This dictum stands as true for a corporal in a firefight to a President in a total multi theatre conflict.

The key question for the Nigerian security forces commanders is whether the crisis of the battle has been reached.

Should they commit a reserve and if so where?

Support the success by keeping up pressure on the enemy or rescue failure by protecting the population?

It is the opinion of this reviewer that the crisis of the battle has been reached, not in terms of defeat or victory but in terms of manageability of the situation. The enemy has chosen the population as their battlefield and it is beholden on the security forces to meet and defeat them there.

Having settled into a routine they are no longer balanced to react to these incidents. Reinforcing Benisheik simply means taking forces from somewhere else where the enemy will again pop up.

The enemy has rebalanced itself to the security forces operations and is keenly and brutally exploiting gaps in their defences. Thus I would suggest:

Operational solutions

Surge: It is time for a surge. And much like the US surge in Iraq and Afghanistan it must be a population centred surge. It might not be possible to generate another division but forces should be fed into the area 100km radius from Maiduguri where majority of the attacks have been taking place. Further forces must then be fed into the areas beyond this up to the Cameroun, Chad, Niger borders.

Airpower: road communications in this area are poor. Helicopters and STOL aircraft are paramount. Surveillance with aircraft, UAV’s and satellites must be increased. If Nigerian satellites cannot be tasked continuously then commercially available satellite or friendly foreign powers can be utilised.

However helicopters both attack and support are needed badly with night flying capability.

Restore mobile communications: These attacks happen in a vacuum in which the victims are unable to call for help, thus the first inkling of incidents are when victims seek relief. The benefits of denying the insurgents mobile communications are nebulous at best as they will have found alternative methods

Tactical solutions:

Hardened military positions: most military and police positions are poorly defended and not hardened.

The priorities in terms of military posts is to give them clear lines of fire, prevent the enemy getting close enough to detonate IEDs or overrun the base and provide overhead protection from indirect fire.

Images of Nigerian Security Force positions in the North east be they checkpoints or FOBs do not inspire confidence. The lack of hardening means forces are vulnerable to IEDs and RPGs, their siting within built up areas means there are covered avenues of approach and poor lines of fire.

These are generalisation, however solutions such as HESCO Bastion would be very useful, even if they cannot be deployed everywhere other local hardening solutions can be use. Alot more can be and will be written on this topic

Quick Reaction Forces: a situation where troops in contact have to withdraw due to lack of ammunition is poor. That the troops are out gunned is one thing but that for the best part of 7 hours there was no counter attack by friendly forces is embarrassing.

Whether this is due to lack of numbers, poor communications or poor command decisions it is not an acceptable situation.

Again this comes down to being able to generate a reserve, every formation down to Company level should be able to generate a reserve, be it a section for a company, a platoon for a battalion, a company for a brigade or a battalion for a division at the bare minimum. For a situation like Benisheik where soldiers are forced to give ground the onus is on their Company/ Battalion to recover ground. If casualties or numbers do not permit this it should be escalated to the higher formation. However a situation where the enemy can operate without molestation is unacceptable.

An Air QRF should be tasked specifically to react to incidents such as these with at least a platoon on standby ready to fly out and be dropped into action

2. Fog Of War:

The incident of 12th September is very curious. One thing that can be stated is that the Nigerian Army almost certainly suffered a bloody nose if not a serious defeat. The loss of 25 men in a single engagement, particularly if it is a company attack is a 25% casualty rate. The fact that men are missing could indicate the field was conceded to the enemy. The other figures quoted of 40 dead and 65 missing are slightly ludicrous but it is safe to suggest that the true casualty figures most likely rest somewhere in between.

Based on just the facts as known we must question the following from the Friendly and Enemy perspectives

Friendly:

Intelligence: the official statement indicates troops from one battalion discovered the encampment and passed it on for further action.

It is not impossible to discover well camouflaged enemy positions on routine patrols, however the Nigeria Air Force recently moved surveillance and strike aircraft to Yola. The US and Nigeria recently agreed on certain security matters and the US has a UAV base in Niger. The interrogation of captured insurgents has also been known to produce actionable intelligence. We will most likely leave that question open.

However time spent on recce is seldom wasted and if each formation does not have a dedicated recce element or attached special forces then the time is well overdue to generate a dedicated recce platoon which could in this situation got close enough to the enemy position to establish its true extent, defences and weaponry.

Fire support: the lack of air support was said to have contributed to this situation. The type of air support is not specified but one would guess it was an attack helicopter which would have been an invaluable asset, however one must also wonder what organic fire support the attacking unit had for this attack. Mortars, heavy and medium machine guns, automatic grenade launchers etc would have suppressed the enemy AA and AT guns and possibly neutralised them.

Again this is all speculation but one would suggest that all battalions should have a dedicated support company encompassing mortars, heavy machine guns, recce troops, Automatic Grenade launchers, snipers, the local jujuman or whatever other assets that can be generated to support elements in the attack. Incidents like this happen to all armies in all conflicts but as long as the lessons learned (which in all reality most likely differ completely from the points raised here) are absorbed and taken on board, recurrences can be avoided

Enemy:

The enemy obviously had a good outing in both Benisheik and this incident although losing 150 men might be a trifle costly. If that figure is accurate it would actually indicate the size of the force massing. This in addition to several incidents leads to several views

The enemy is again shaping the ground: through the incessant attacks upon vigilantes and civilians the enemy is creating conditions whereby they can reimpose control on the populace and possibly define ungoverned spaces.

The enemy has access to eternal sources of men and materiel that have not been affected by these operations; this is a positive and a negative. The presence of technical’s, foreign looking and sounding fighters indicates the borders are still extremely porous and that Boko Haram adventure can still lure fighters for wither money or ideology, but it also indicates that the local raw material is becoming exhausted and that Boko Haram can no longer generate or sustain enough foot soldiers locally.

3.       Future Enemy Intentions:

There will be more spectacular attacks in the vein of Benisheik, with the enemy attacking small garrisons with overwhelming force, setting up illegal checkpoints and essentially terrorising the civil populace.

These attacks will be launched between 8.00pm and 4.00am, to negate Nigerian air superiority and give them enough time to withdraw within the hours of darkness.

They are unlikely to launch large scale attacks against larger garrisons or population centres

I would suggest this week would see an increase in attacks as Independence Day comes closer

However terrorism is an extremely vain glorious exercise and Boko Haram has been relegated to a few lines after the football scores a sad state of affairs for a group that could destroy churches on Christian Holy Days and attack the UN Building in Abuja.

Thus the for enemies best course of action we need only look at Nairobi, where a small group of well armed, well motivated fighters, have caused casualties from all over the world and held the worlds media in thrall for over 3 days.

Abuja does not lack malls, amusement arcades or plazas.

I would strongly suggest somebody somewhere takes a long, hard look at them

Advertisements

About peccavi

A Nigerian with interests in defence, security, geopolitics, the military particularly small unit tactics, COIN, stabilisation and asymmetric warfare
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s