OP RESTORE ORDER SITREP- Week Ending 5 October 2013

Situation Friendly Forces:

02 October:

  • The trial of 17 Boko Haram suspects was postponed to 09 October due to the absence of the judge at the Federal High Court, LAGOS. The accused are charged with conspiracy and acts of terrorism and were allegedly captured with 3 packets of explosives, 15 detonators, 11 AK 47s and 30 rounds of ammunition. A further 200 rounds and 2 suitcases and 1 water container filled with explosives were recovered from the suspects.
  • The Federal Court of Appeal, ABUJA has set a date of 01 November to hear a no case appeal by Senator Ali NDUME who is standing trial for terrorism related offences

03 October: combat aircraft (apparently 3 fixed wing and 2 Attack helicopters) and artillery (types and quantities unknown) have been deployed to YOBE State to support combat operations against the insurgents based in the forests of BORNO and YOBE State. Operations have apparently been going on for 3 days between BENISHEIK and DAMBOA in BORNO and GOJBI-GONIRI Forests in YOBE. Commanders apparently identified insurgent locations with satellite imagery. The army alleges 186 insurgents killed.

04 October:

  • 7 Division has carried out a controlled explosion to destroy captured IED’s in the vicinity of CHABBAL, on the MAIDUGURI-GUBIO Road
  • Troops in a ground air operation engaged insurgents in the vicinity of MAZARI Village, YOBE State, killing ‘scores’ and capturing 15

Situation Enemy Forces:

28 September:

  • 10 travellers along the DAMATURU/ MAIDUGURI have been killed near NGAMDU Village, KAGA LGA, BORNO State. The victims were decapitated and the heads placed atop their bodies a bus and a trailer were found burnt at the scene
  • 4 civilians had their throats slit in MAKINTAFAMARI Village

02 October:

  • A NIGERIEN soldier serving with the MJNTF in BAGA, BORNO State has been killed and 3 others wounded in an attack by 8 insurgents at around 7.00pm. The wounded soldiers are being treated in DIFFA, NIGER REPUBLIC.
  • 3 truck drivers had their throats slit by insurgents at the NGADDABUL RIVER bank near DALORI Military Checkpoint when they went to lift sand
  • 05 September: insurgents attacked DAMBOA LGA, BORNO State with small arms and IEDs, killing 5 civilians. 15 insurgents were killed by elements of 21 Brigade and captured 5 AK 47, 2 RPGs, 1 pick up truck and an unknown quantity of various types ammunition. The attack took place at 4.30am as people were coming out of morning prayers. Various public buildings were destroyed

Situation External Forces:

30 September: The CANADIAN Minister for Foreign Affairs Minister John BAIRD condemned the attack on the Agricultural College students

03 October: the US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda THOMAS-GREENFIELD stated that the US government will work with the Nigerian Government to defeat Boko Haram.

Statistics

Table 1 Casualties

  Killed Wounded Missing/ Detained
NPF

0

0

0

NA (Other Forces)

0   (1)

0   (3)

0

Total NSF

0(1)

0   (3)

0

Vigilantes

0

0

0

Insurgents

15

0

Male:  

15

Female:

0  

Civilian

22

0

0

 

Table 2 Captured insurgent equipment

AK47

 

Pistol 9mm 7.62 Ammo IEDs Vehicles Motorcycles RPGs Cash

 

5

0

0

0

1

0

2

0

 

Table 3 Insurgent incidents

Insurgent Incidents

 

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

 

Analysis:

Mark time: the Nigerian military has reacted predictably to the Boko Haram counter offensive with a counter counter offensive of its own. I would presume the insurgents would have predicted this and are not be unduly surprised by the action. However Nigerian forces seem to have begun to pull all available resources together for a more determined assault, using satellite reconnaissance to pinpoint targets and then airpower to support ground operations. It is very likely that the enemy will once again be pushed out at the end of this operation, go quiet and possibly attempt a limited upsurge around Christmas.

It is worth looking at Boko Haram and its recent operations.

  • Their main area of operations is now rural
  • Incursions into built up areas tends to be isolated hamlets near to forested area that provides them with cover
  • Their attacks have mainly been against civilians
  • They have only confronted the security forces in situations of overwhelming strength
  • They have not attempted to hold any ground withdrawing in good order in the hours just before daylight
  • Their raids upon populated areas are characterised by terrorising the population by murders and stealing supplies
  • Their attacks on the roads have been characterised again by murders of passengers, discriminating only in method of execution, kidnaps and theft of vehicles and goods

Although Boko Haram has always had a rural presence starting in the Mandara Mountains on the Cameroun/ Nigeria border it has generally been an urban movement. The move back to rural operations has been as a result of their defeat in urban areas leading to the rise of the vigilantes. Theoretically moving to rural operations should be to Boko Harams advantage as it gives them a huge expanse of ungoverned, poorly secured space to operate in but this is not so much the case.

As they are finding out in this operation Nigeria has many resources that gives it an advantage in this situation such as air power; both strike and surveillance via aircraft, UAV’s and satellites, superior firepower and superior numbers.

The advantages that the insurgents have of concealment, mobility and flexibility can be negated by these assets as once they are detected they can be fixed in place and then destroyed with much more freedom than in the cities.

As the operations continue the Nigerian security forces will become more and more efficient at delivering these effects leaving Boko Haram with ever more limited options. They can try and reinfiltrate the cities (but then they fall foul of the vigilante)s or else stay in ever dwindling bands in the bush. The latter option would mean they have to seriously cut down on vehicle use as these are difficult to hide in this environment, leaving them forced to operate mainly on foot, reducing their range and abilities.

This might not reduce their effect on the population as 2-4 men can effectively hold up traffic on a road, execute people or raid a village to assassinate and intimidate.

However the dry season is fast approaching and this will force the insurgents to remain close to populated areas in order to get food and water, it would appear the insurgents have been planning for this very eventuality by carting away large quantities of food stuffs in their recent raids. These items can be cached and used to sustain the insurgents during the lean months. An added bonus to the stealing of food means that more food must be brought in, this leads to more vehicles that can be raided unless they are protected in convoys which ties up the security forces.

So although the efforts of the security forces might lead to a reduction in mass casualty attacks, it might not result in a reduction in overall attacks. In fact attacks may increase as smaller lighter forces with a smaller footprint can operate more freely than 20-30 men in vehicles.

Boko Haram maybe defeated in short term tactical operations but without a significant and sustained ground holding and surveillance effort by the security forces, this is a cycle that will continuously repeat itself.

Life after Boko Haram:

One should be able to look at the evolution of this group and predict that it would slowly start to die out or evolve into something else but unfortunately the Boko Haram phenomenon is not as simple as an extremist group seeking to impose their will on others. If one looks at the FIS in Algeria, MILF in the Philippines, the Taliban (Afghan and Pakistani) or FARC in Colombia one can discern some sort of credible political goal that they seek to achieve. Boko Haram strangely does not have this at all.

If their objectives were to force an adoption of Sharia law in Borno State or even Northern Nigeria, they would be within the realms of credibility if not attainability; however they wish to Islamise the entire country, an option which is easily not open for discussion in Southern Nigeria (or even Northern Nigeria with a significant indigenous Christian population).

If their efforts were a form of Kanuri revivalism, attempting to resurrect the former Kanem-Borno Empire then this has not been articulated (that I know), they have shown no interest in defending Kanuris or only attacking other tribes. The Ijaw’s during the MEND period drew on ancient mysticism and the very attainable and logical goal of resource control through an intelligent and PR friendly campaign.

If their efforts were directed at a change in the political leadership locally or nationally it is unlikely they would find much dissent amongst Nigerians, yet their attacks have been in the main targeted against the poor and despite their early attacks on churches mainly against fellow Muslims.

In the early days Boko Haram at least made a pretence of having some sort of cause or acting with some form of discrimination and would express regret or pass blame for civilian deaths now they are deliberately targeting them in the most vicious of ways. These are not the actions of a group that has any sort of goals beyond the conflict it is currently fighting. The other dissimilarity with other groups Islamist or not is a lack of an intellectual or political wing that can make the case for them (even if disavowing their methods), thus there is no one who could legitimately be debated or negotiated with or who could implement their ideology.

The importance of this factor is that there is no way to visualise Boko Haram’s end state or even how they intend to achieve it.

Other than their ability to kill, they offer no alternative to the existing social or political system, (which in Nigeria in general and Northern Nigeria in particular is not very difficult), having made absolutely no effort to differentiate themselves from the security forces except by being even more brutal and indiscriminate.

Thus one struggles to see what they hope to achieve. The only foreseeable future one can see for North Eastern Nigeria is constant insurgent activity with no hope of a negotiated solution, this is possibly good for security contractors, amnesty negotiators and local politicians but for the Boko Haram militants themselves and the civilians in the North East as well as the soldiers, policemen and other public servant it is an unremitting nightmare

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About peccavi

A Nigerian with interests in defence, security, geopolitics, the military particularly small unit tactics, COIN, stabilisation and asymmetric warfare
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