OP RESTORE ORDER SITREP- Week Ending 28 November 2013

Situation Friendly Forces:

24 November:

  • 7 Division GOC, Major General Obidah ETHAN states that the GSM blackout will continue indefinitely in BORNO State
  • Elements of 7 Division on an intelligence driven sustained ground air operation destroyed insurgent camps in the vicinity of BITA Village, along the DAMBOA-GWOZA Road near DAMBOA town, BORNO State killing at least 41 insurgents. The 3 day operation that involved troops mounted in APC’s ended on Tuesday with no reports of friendly casualties.

27 November: 

  • The trial of 17 suspected Boko Haram members continued at the Federal High Court, LAGOS. The case had been adjourned on 2 October due to lack of legal representation for the accused and had to be adjourned again till 3 December as 5 of the accused still had no legal representation. They are charged with 7 offences under the Terrorism Act 2013 and Firearms (Special Provision) Act 2004. They have all pled Not Guilty
  • The second batch of BORNO State Youths Empowerment Scheme (BOYES) enrolees completed training after a 3 week training programme. At the passing out parade the State Governor Alhaji Kashim SHETTIMA (represented by his deputy (Alhaji Zannah Umar MUSTAPHA) stated that the scheme aimed to target 20,000-25,000 youth, with the third batch due to begin training on Friday, 29 November. The newly trained youths were to be posted to schools, hospitals and markets. The State Government is still working out a legal framework for the establishment of an agency to administer BOYES members. They are to be paid N15,000.00 per month with free uniforms and equipment.

29 November: A Lebanese man Talal Ahmad RODA has been given a life sentence for illegal arms trafficking and arms possession. Terrorism charges against RODA and three other men Mustapha FAWAZ and Abdullah TAHINI and Hussain Nurudeen KOSSDI were struck out. They were all accused of membership of Hezbollah (they all admitted to training with Hezbollah in their youth) and arrested following discovery of an arms cache in KANO in May 2013 consisting of rifles, ammunition, grenades, rocket artillery, RPGs, land mines

Situation Enemy Forces:

28 November: a police sergeant was killed by gunmen in GASHUA, BADE LGA, YOBE State. The murdered Policeman was serving as an orderly to the Emir of BADE and was trailed from the mosque after evening prayers to his house where he was killed

29 November:

  • Human Rights Watch states that Boko Haram has used children as young as 12 as fighters and routinely abducted and raped women
  • Insurgents mounted in motorcycles and Toyota Hilux vans, attacked SABON GARI Village, along the MAIDUGURI-AMBOA-BIU Road, DAMBOA LGA, BORNO State killing 17 civilians, burning down over 100 houses and shops as well as vehicles. Vigilantes killed 2 attackers and captured 3 others
  • Suspected insurgents killed 7 fishermen  in BAGA, BORNO State burnt several boats and net in  an apparent revenge attack

Situation Other Forces:

27 November:  The second batch of BORNO State Youths Empowerment Scheme (BOYES) enrolees completed training after a 3 week training programme. At the passing out parade the State Governor Alhaji Kashim SHETTIMA (represented by his deputy (Alhaji Zannah Umar MUSTAPHA) stated that the scheme aimed to target 20,000-25,000 youth, with the third batch due to begin training on Friday, 29 November. The newly trained youths were to be posted to schools, hospitals and markets. The State Government is still working out a legal framework for the establishment of an agency to administer BOYES members. They are to be paid N15,000.00 per month with free uniforms and equipment.

Situation External Forces:

24 November: the International Criminal Court has determined that the conflict between the Nigerian State and Boko Haram is an ‘armed conflict of a non international character’ in a report (Report on Preliminary Examination Activities 2013) released by the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP). This determination defines Boko Haram as a combatant group with obligations under the Law of Armed Conflict.

 Statistics

Table 1 Casualties

  Killed Wounded Missing/ Detained
NPF

1

0

0

NA

0

0

0

Total NSF

1

0

0

Vigilantes

0

0

0

Insurgents

41

??

Male:  

3

Female:

0  

Civilian

24  

??

0  

Table 4 Insurgent incidents

Insurgent Incidents

 

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

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

 

Analysis:

Fire for Fire:

The Problem: It has been observed several times that despite the Nigerian Security Forces (NSF) mastering a steep learning curve in COIN at the operational level, several tactical and structural issues remain unresolved.

Thus it would be interesting to analyse the current state of the conflict and review methods of dealing with it.

In order to define some of these issues we must try to understand and analyse the enemies’ characteristics, expand on them, understand them and consider the friendly response.

Factor Detail What does this mean? How can this be countered?
Mobility

 

Insurgents use buses, 4 wheel drives and motorcycles to move around.   Other groups move about on foot The enemy can move around easily and is not limited to tarred roads   and open ground NSF must be able to move at the same pace and with the same ease.   This means moving by foot, motorcycles, horses, quad bikes or by air
Terrain

 

The enemy operates in difficult broken terrain, hills, forests and   the Sahel This terrain is generally inaccessible to vehicles and aircraft are   easily detected by sound NSF cannot use vehicles easily without being channelled onto obvious   paths that serve as killing areas, thus they must avoid obvious routes. Helicopters   must operate tactically by contour flying
Weapons

 

The enemy is armed with rifles, machine guns, RPG’s and IEDs. They   also use vehicle mounted weapons The enemy can engage targets 300-600m away, they can booby trap   avenues of approach with IED’s. Vehicle mounted weapons give them a mobile   fire support capability NSF must use weapon systems that can bring direct fire (i.e. rifle,   machine gun) and indirect fire (mortars etc) and support fires (artillery,   aircraft) onto the enemy from a greater range and accuracy. NSF must be able   to approach enemy positions from unlikely directions to avoid IEDs
Strength

 

The enemies’ total numbers are unknown, however they operate in   groups ranging from 30 to 300 men. men It would be very difficult to feed, hide and sustain large groups in   a non permissive environment so it is likely that the basic size of an   insurgent group is 10-30 If the enemy concentrate in larger numbers they can   be detected and destroyed. By operating in smaller numbers they can be   overwhelmed by equal or superior friendly forces A 3:1 ratio is needed to defeat an enemy, thus the smallest unsupported   NSF unit should be a 30 man platoon. This platoon must have the appropriate   weapon systems to overmatch an enemy force of equal or superior size. This   force must be small enough to make the enemy want to fight and not run away   but strong enough to defend themselves.
Locations The enemy inhabits camps in difficult to reach areas, such as forests   and caves, yet in the main, move daily to avoid detection The terrain is difficult for vehicles; aircraft cannot approach   without being detected. Constant enemy movement means information can be   obsolete by the time it is acted on. In order to bring forces in the enemy   must be fixed and prevented from escaping NSF must be able to operate easily in the same terrain, moving on   foot. Reinforcement will be mainly by air. In order to find the enemy the NSF   must be able to rapidly exploit information
Equipment

 

The enemy has access to the arms from the Sahel captured vehicles   mounted with HMG’s and captured mortars. It is not known if they have the   ammunition or expertise to use these weapon systems The enemy can only use direct fire weapons, do not have armoured   vehicles or reinforced positions, thus they are susceptible to indirect fire   weapons. Friendly vehicles operating in difficult terrain are open to ambush A force with indirect fire weapons such as mortars and grenade   launchers can defeat or neutralise an enemy before they get close enough to   use their weapon systems. Aircraft and artillery properly guided in can   destroy the enemy
Civilians The civilian populace is used to feed and hide the enemy. And   influenced by coercion and kidnap with harsh penalties for defiance The civilian population is an important source of information and is   a key battleground for the enemy. Separate the civilians from the enemy and   they will react NSF should identify friendly, neutral and hostile villages, and use   intelligent methods to bring them onside.
Morale The enemy morale is unknown, however testimony of captured insurgents   and escaped victims indicates that harsh, violent methods are used to stop   members escaping and false religious dictums are used to justify extremely   barbarity There are a number who might surrender if they had a realistic chance   of escape. The more harassed enemy forces are the less time they have to   chase run aways or those who surrender The NSF need a determined psy ops effort to convince people to   surrender, such as simple posters in villages the enemy is known to frequent.   Well publicised rehabilitation schemes. Constant harassment to put pressure   on the enemy
Supply The enemy gets money, food and medical supplies by raiding villages   and hospitals as well as highway robbery. They acquire weapons from killed or   captured troops and from the Sahel arms market The enemy will remain well supplied as long as there are civilians to   attack. However their access to arms and ammunition depends on cash and the   security forces Better force protection for civilians and the military, interdict and   cut off smuggling routes
Tactics The enemy can launch occasional large attacks on population centres, raids  on isolated villages and illegal VCPs to sustain itself. Operating mainly at   night the enemy retains the ability to  concentrate, infiltrate, attack and withdraw before friendly forces can retaliate effectively. The enemy concentrates forces when necessary but disperses before   they can be destroyed by superior firepower, they operate at night with a   certain amount of impunity The NSF needs a night fighting capability for air support and ground   forces. The enemy would be defeated if they are forced to concentrate so they   can be destroyed en masse or disperse so they can be destroyed piecemeal. The   enemy must be forced to stand and fight or disperse into killing zones
Future intentions Not known. However the pattern of attacks indicates that they are   operating closer to the Cameroun border, exploiting tribal links and loose   border controls to find safe haven and high value targets in Cameroun The enemy will move further and further east into Cameroun   destabilising that country and setting up safe havens. When that government   finally reacts they will move north or west or south The enemy must be destroyed within Nigeria. Their forces must be   forced to commit to battle or to disperse

We can take the deductions above and indulge in fantasy tactics and fantasy units.

Boko Haram was rural force that became urban and has now returned to the rural areas. It has reacted competently to the pressure from Nigerian forces who’s operations seem to have the following characteristics;

  • Identify enemy base camps using intelligence from informers, locals and patrols
  • Confirm this with surveillance assets,
  • Neutralise the camps with air strikes by fixed/ rotary wing
  • Clear camps with troops dismounted from vehicles

From a force protection point of view this is a safe tactic but if the objective is to kill or capture the enemy it is quite inefficient and in difficult terrain will inevitably leave a significant number of insurgents alive to fight another day.

The only way to defeat an enemy is to get close to them and destroy them; support fires such as air strikes and artillery are best called in by people who can actually see the target.

Thus in as much as these operations will inevitably disrupt the enemies operations, enough insurgents will survive, and enough weapons and stores will be cached to allow them to continue operating. It is inefficient to use conventional forces, tasked and organised conventionally to chase after light, mobile forces as experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan show.

In order to defeat the enemy, one must inflict sufficient casualties upon the enemy to reduce their numbers, destroy their supplies and limit their freedom of movement

In order to inflict casualties on a lightly armed, mobile enemy with good local knowledge and no fixed bases, they must be contained in a given killing zone where the superior numbers and firepower of the security forces can be brought to bear, in order to fix them in place; you have to find them, in order to find them you have to look for them.

A Solution:

For the purpose of this argument a light mobile force is proposed. This force will use light mobile forces to bait the enemy into a fight where they can be fixed and destroyed by superior skill and firepower.

This force should be a strengthened Company Group with its own logistics and air support and should consist of several elements;

  • Hunter force
  • Strike Force
  • Mobile Group
  • Main FOB
  • Air wing

Hunter Force: will consist of a platoon of 30 men, this unit’s task will be to move within a given area of operations in order to draw the enemy into a fight. To this end it must be capable of operating independently for a given period of time without resupply, of fixing/ defending itself against a superior force for a given period of time and defeating a smaller, weaker force. The main effort of this force is to compel the enemy to concentrate forces for a fight or to curtail their freedom of movement so they are unable to operate. To do this they must be able to move and fight without a heavy logistic trail and be able to react quickly to contacts. Primarily this should be a foot mobile force, however it could also be mounted on horses or quad bikes.

Organisation: the platoon is organised into a headquarters, 3 manoeuvre elements and a fire support element

Platoon HQ: Platoon commander and radioman,

Platoon Fire support team: Sergeant, radioman, 2 man 60mm mortar team and 2 man 40mm multi barrel grenade launcher team

Sections: Three 8 man commanded by a corporal with 6 riflemen, a machine gunner and RPG man

Equipment: in addition to personal weapons, support weapons such as 7.62 machine guns, RPGs, 60mm mortars and 40mm grenade launchers. The latter 2 provide an indirect fire capability which can put fire into enemy hiding in caves, behind walls, on reserve slopes of hills etc. Radios for communication within the platoon, back to HQ, with aircraft etc. Quad bikes for carrying ammunition, casualty evacuation etc.

Tactics: the platoon’s job is patrol until it comes into contact with the enemy. Once in contact it is to call in for air support and reinforcements. In a hostile environment it is to act as provocatively as possible such as putting up wanted posters, leaving messages for enemy commanders, and then set up ambushes. The main effort is to force the enemy to commit to a fight on terms favourable to friendly forces

Air Quick Reaction Force: The AQRF should consist of the Air Wing, Company HQ and a strengthened 40 man platoon of four 8 man sections (the sections can be further broken down into 4 man fire teams) mounted in two helicopters

Organisation: the Force should be sub divided into a Fixing Force and a Strike Force, mounted in the Ari Wing and commanded by the Company Commander.

Fixing Force: should consist of at least two 8 man sections, these are lightly armed elements, consisting of 7 riflemen and one machine gunner. The task of this element is to block the withdrawal routes of the enemy and push them towards a killing zone

Strike Force: should consist of at least one of the section will be the command section which will form the nucleus of the Strike force, with the Platoon Commander, a radioman, a Corporal, 2 x 40mm multiple barrel grenade launchers, 2 x machine guns and an RPG man. Other sections or fireteams can be added on to this force as necessary. They will always be deployed last from the helicopters once the decisive point of the contact has been achieved.

Tactics:

Once the Hunter Force has made contact with the enemy it is the job of the AQRF to deploy immediately to find, fix and destroy the enemy. Once the Company commander is flying over the contact area, the Hunter force will guide him onto the enemy position. The commander could then drop his Fixing force in 4 or 8 man teams to cut off any likely areas of enemy withdrawal and then advance on an axis to either push the enemy towards open ground where they can be destroyed by the helicopters or force them to stand and fight, so they can be fixed and destroyed by the ground forces and air power.

Once he has encircled the enemy and pushed them towards the killing zone, the Strike Force is deployed in an ambush or overwatch position to destroy the enemy by direct fire, with air support. If the enemy has decided to stand and fight the Strike force lands to provide a fire support element while the platoon commander takes control of the other sections to launch a hasty platoon attack.

Mobile Group: this is a vehicle mounted force which constantly patrols the vehicle accessible areas in the area of operations. When a contact takes place this element moves as close to the contact area as possible and sets up an hasty Forward Operating Base, where casualties can be received, helicopters refuelled, prisoners secured, ammunition, water etc resupplied, radio signals relayed and reinforcements forward loaded. Consisting of two vehicle mounted platoon, fuel trucks, supply trucks and Radio trucks it is commanded by the Company second in command.  As fire support the Mobile Group has its vehicle mounted weapons and 81mm mortars. If this element gets into a contact it can call in the AQRF if it is not committed to assisting the Hunter Force.

Main FOB: the main FOB will contain the Company HQ, helicopter ground crew and stores. There will always be one platoon resting at this location. This is where all the forces deploy from. It is suggested troops rotate between tasks

Air Wing: this will consist of 2 strike and 2 lift helicopters. Nigeria’s rotary wing capability Consists of

Strike Quantity Support Quantity Liaison Quantity
Mi 24 4 Super Puma 7 R 66 2
Mi 35 7 Puma 5
Mi 8/17 10
AW-109 12

 

Conclusion:

A Company Group such as this would need to be well led and well trained, with constant training with all elements. Particularly in terms of commanders all of whom must be competent and confident enough to think and fight independently (for a period) communicate effectively by radio, call in air strikes and mortars and act in concert with the air element.

Specially designated zones particularly in the border areas or difficult to reach areas would be ideal for a force such as this. Additional specialists such as trackers, medics etc would be useful additions.

Physical fitness and marksmanship will be key individual skills; however air power will be one of the most decisive assets. By working in conjunction with ground forces, this asset can be used much more efficiently.

There are many better military solutions to the evolving tactical problems presented by Boko Haram than that above. It is the contention of this commentator that there are currently only military solutions, thus thinking must evolve as to how military assets can be used more efficiently to bring this insurgency to a rapid end.

In difficult terrain against a ruthless, mobile enemy the Nigerian Security Forces must use their limited resources judiciously. With aggressive tactics and well trained, well motivated and disciplined soldiers, the war can be taken to the enemy, taken into their comfort zones to defeat them at their own game. When they are only able to move in groups large enough to defeat a well armed, well trained aggressive Hunter Force or Mobile Group, then the enemy is vulnerable to detection by surveillance assets and destruction by air and conventional forces. When they are forced to disperse then they are no longer effective.

In the absence of political solutions to this problem, innovative low tech military ones should suffice.

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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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