Daesh/ Boko Haram- A Link Too Far?

'Abu Anas al Ansari' courtesy Long War Journal

‘Abu Anas al Ansari’ courtesy Long War Journal

Much has been made recently of links between Daesh and Boko Haram accentuated by the recent claim of responsibility by Daesh of the PBIED attack in Maiduguri of 12th May.

It is the opinion of this commentator that these links are not as important as they appear to be and are in fact an indication of the weakness of these groups, for the following reasons:

Factions: Boko Haram consists of several factions. The relative strength of each faction is unknown however they are all greatly weakened by the counter offensive by Nigeria and allied countries. Senior Boko Haram leaders have been killed and captured allegedly including Ansaru’s leader. ‘Shekau’ has been reduced to occasional audio recordings. It is known that not all factions were in agreement with the alliance with Daesh, thus any claims or actions should be seen as those of an element of Boko Haram rather than the entire group.

Franchises: Daesh itself consists of outposts claimed as Provinces such as those in Libya, Somalia, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Yemen etc but the common factor about all these outposts is that they were not created by Daesh expeditionary forces; they are all local groups that declared allegiance to Daesh, thus whilst sharing the same brand might make it easier to form alliances, share weapons, equipment and expertise, they each have local objectives and are geographically removed from each other. Thus Boko Haram sending fighters to Libya might be nice but also might be pointless as there are more than enough fighters in Libya and the wider Maghreb. Nor is it likely to confer to any operational advantage, to Boko Haram as their key need is to be able to train and equip sufficient forces to defeat Nigerian and allied forces and hold ground. This would require a large amount of ammunition, vehicles and fuel, which would be difficult to ship from Libya (much less Somalia or Iraq) without detection. Where these links would help is in terms of specialist weapon systems such as MANPADS or ATGW however they are desperately needed locally and subject to an intense search and destroy operation by dedicated US and other militaries.

Desperation: the Nigerian counter offensive in the North East, MJNTF operations in the Mandara Mountains/ Gamboru Ngala Area and MNJTF operations and Nigerian Special Forces actions in the Lake Chad area, have taken a heavy toll on Boko Haram. Combined with increased and improved indigenous ISR capability as well as US/ UK. France assistance with ISR and intelligence, the enemy is struggling.

Likewise Daesh in Iraq and Syria is under pressure from the Kurds, US and allied Special Forces actions and air strikes, other rebel groups, Iraqi forces as well as (occasionally) Russian and Syrian Regime forces. Daesh in Somalia is being slaughtered al Shabaab, a pattern that is replicated across the franchise. Virtually no ‘franchise’ is in the ascendancy. In this vein it makes sense for Daesh to attempt to project an image of strength by claiming attacks across the globe. However none of this translates to a coordinated global campaign merely local attacks by local actors claimed under the same banner.

Capabilities: this time last year in May/ June the enemy had launched multiple attacks in majority of the LGAs of Borno State as well as attacks in Gombe, Adamawa, Yobe, Cameroun, Niger and Chad, as well as waves of IED attacks on Maiduguri as well as in Yola/ Jimeta, Damaturu, Cameroun and Chad.

This year they have launched 2 this month in Maiduguri, one of which failed. The devices used last year were VBIEDs, PBIEDs consisting of a combination of home made explosives (HME) accentuated with ball bearings and shrapnel or captured cluster bombs which caused devastating casualties. This year they appear to be explosive filled 23mm shells casings. Attacks last year included vehicle mounted attacks on Maiduguri and Army positions around Borno, this year other than 2 local counter attacks within the Sambisa Forest and on Kareto all of which failed the enemy has been unable to attack. Thus it can be seen that so far the alliance with Daesh has not increased Boko Haram’s capabilities or in anyway changed or improved their battlefield fortunes. They were losing then and are still losing now.

Strategic disconnect: as alluded to above each franchise consists of locals with local objectives who have self identified with Daesh, however non of them, are in any position to greatly assist each other. Daesh in Iraq/ Syria can render little assistance to out stations in Libya, Afghanistan, Somalia or Nigeria, beyond sending the odd technical expert and improving their media and social media output. Even if Daesh in Syria/ Iraq was victorious it would spend most of its time defending itself. The Maghrebi, Mediterranean and European powers would ensure Daesh in Libya does not expand or consolidate and even if Daesh in Nigeria was able to seize control of Borno State, beyond the personal tragedies for the occupants, strategically it would not affect Nigeria, who’s administrative centre is hundreds of kilometres away and food producing and industrial areas are to the south and centre.

Conclusion: it is the opinion of this commentator that the links between Daesh and Boko Haram are more cosmetic than concrete Boko Haram was allied with MUJAO, AQIM and now Daesh, when Daesh is no longer fashionable, the remnants of Boko Haram will ally with their successor.

Currently those groups with funds or advanced weaponry such as MANPADS, communications and ISR gear, ATGWs etc desperately need it for themselves, it will be this common use of such equipment and weapons that will indicate a step change Daesh franchises or a coordinated operation. Thus far they do not even have common administrative or operational practices.

So whilst we might see changes in media output and an increase in social media proliferation, we do not see radical operational shifts, changes in tactics or even success. This is because as much as Daesh is keen to claim these groups as Provinces, they are local groups, with local actors and objectives subject to local conditions.


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 Counter insurgency, Geopolitics, Nigeria Defence, Nigeria Strategy, Terrorism, West Africa Defence, West Africa Strategy and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Daesh/ Boko Haram- A Link Too Far?

  1. Pingback: Daesh/ Boko Haram- A Link Too Far? | Rifleman III Journal

  2. jimmy says:

    Great Analysis.
    I have kept quiet on a lot of issues, because of the bash US/UK Brigade hyperventilating at any mention.
    The last/ most recent pictures have shown Boko Haram being captured/killed in possession of worn out Dane guns,The Nigerian Armed Forces have also taken to heart the advice on seeking and destroying their tunnels .
    IMHO , BH logistics supply train is being destroyed. As much as Hell is being visited upon them in Sambisa, I am curious about the News blackout in the Mandara Mountains are the remnants of the leadership of BH there? or are they still clustered on the sparse islands in Lake Chad.
    I await your response.

    • peccavi says:

      I’m curious as well, the last I’ve heard was of heliborne SF operating there but from looking at reports it appears that they might still be there as there are still raids to the East in Mayo Sava Department (equivalent to an LGA) of Extreme Nord Region Cameroun.
      But with the MNJTF finally up and running and a few coordinated operations they seem to be feeling the heat.
      The indice I’m using is IED reports and raids in and around Gwoza or Amchide/ Mora. And they are decreasing

    • lachit says:

      is this the same old jimmy 😀 from BE blog ?

      just checking 😀

  3. jimmy says:

    By the way I expect remnants of Isis to move further South to Libya And no man’s land between Niger , Nigeria and Chad – Once Mosul falls to the Iraqi government.

  4. Good article!

    There have been reports of ISIS working with drug cartels in Mexico… All unrealistic of course, just because some cartel member printed a ISIS flag to carry dies not make them ISIS… Because ISIS has the “Terrorist Glamour” and horrific reputation these people want a part of it.

    How could these groups co-operate and for what? Maybe safe havens, buys arms from each other… But I can’t see them funding each other or helping to a great extent… So, superficial co-operation for the media.


    • peccavi says:

      This is the point exactly, there is no real reason for anyone other than the most extreme Islamic groups to align with Daesh

  5. lachit says:

    nice post 😀

    but I would like to put forward some of my observations.

    collaboration between terrorist outfits need not always translate into transfusion into arms , manpower and other resources.

    this is a mistaken line of thought.

    ISIS rise is mainly due to the highly effective organizational setup and operational management by ex Iraqi generals , military planners sourced from all over the world and god only knows some of the best intelligence minds whoever they might be. (don’t want to get killed still young lol !!!)

    this knowledge of military organization setup , operational management will filter down and disseminate to other similar like minded terror groups. BH might get access to this via advisors etc.

    DAESH and BH are anomalies in the sense they did not follow the modus operandi of the usual terror groups in that they occupied large areas and had/has huge resources etc.

    BH hold has been systematically destroyed however it does not mean it will end , chances are BH will simply transition into a regular run of the mill terror group like that of JeM ,lashkar e toiba etc.
    i.e they will operate or try to operate within the civilian population.
    even in a reduced form BH stands to gain via collaboration with DAESH will regard to
    1.operational planning
    2.financial help
    3.access to global supply routes/logistics
    4. access to external safe houses
    5.access to training for a selected few for wider dissemination later on
    6.access to future patrons be it other countries or criminal/terror organizations etc.

    I am not saying you are wrong in your assessment that the DAESH and BH collaboration are too hyped, what I am saying is the possibility of the opposite happening is also very high.

    open source information is too little to make any judgement regarding this matter ACCURATELY/CONCLUSIVELY .
    and why would DAESH / BH hype their collaboration and reveal their cooperation (if any) other than the need to know basis for propaganda purpose.
    BH fall back options will always remain a closely guarded secret . to assume that they are not contemplation their coming defeat in the conventional warfare (sort of) and not thinking of back up options will be fool hardy.
    one plausible option might be is to tie up with DAESH for sustenance until they can recoup .

    as I already said till now BH is a anomaly for a terror group and therefore their actions , operations , modus operandi etc. is very much visible , however once they transition to a regular sort of terror group their visibility / foot print will diminish . their day to day machinations, collaborations etc. will be harder to track . as such their external patronage or any sort of help from external groups like DAESH will harder to verify and connect.
    I hope you are getting my point of view.

    how the experience and manpower of mujahedeen operations in Afghanistan was routed to Al-Qaeda and Pakistan based terror groups for operations in India , present day Afghanistan and other countries is note worthy. hundreds of experienced mujahedeen formed the initial corpus of the early ISIS together with the battle hardened Chechens and Iraqi ex republican guards.

    once a terror group comes into prominence it s near to impossible to finish it off.
    1.every country has adversaries , so reality is some country or countries will look to keep it (existing terror groups) alive one way or the other. it is basically a low cost weapon – a sword you keep dangling over your enemy to keep it in check . how successful it is in that is a matter for the future.
    2.internal dynamics -political / ethnic factors etc. (I will not elaborate this)

    transfer of MANPADS, communications and ISR gear, ATGWs by DAESH will be determined by geo-political-economical factors , whoever controls DAESH will have to think twice on this and the resulting future catastrophe , since Africa and Asian will be the future engine for growth etc..
    and if nobody controls DAESH then the world powers will look to cut off the supply routes from DAESH.
    if Africa goes under like middle east than god save the global economy and humanity in general.

    it is my personal opinion only 😀

    • peccavi says:

      Hi Lachit,

      I completely agree that OSINT can only give a snapshot, that’s why my opinions come with so many caveats!
      But if you look at BH it has actually followed a very orthodox Maoist path. It started with ideological indoctrination and expansion, being quasi legitimate with mosques, schools and even members openly in government, when it was attacked it went to the terro mode and once it had acquired sufficient strength, guerrilla war. 2014/15 it transitioned to conventional war again in the classi Maoist sense and began to take territory. They were defeated but following the Maoist path they returned to terrorism, eventuall will go back to guerrilla warfare and then conventional war.
      The disadvantage BH has is that their ideological core has been shown to be hollow so they will be unable to gain popular support except with money and terror.
      Daesh (in my opinion) is a Baathist creation and their main effort is regaining power in Iraq. It serves their interest to project this image of a caliphate but if they take control of Iraq they will simply revert to repressing and fighting local enemies.
      Daeshs famed administrative skills have not transferred to any other region. We have not seen a well run administrative state, with laws, salaries and public services in Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and definitely not NE Nigeria.

  6. lachit says:

    “*******But if you look at BH it has actually followed a very orthodox Maoist path. It started with ideological indoctrination and expansion, being quasi legitimate with mosques, schools and even members openly in government, when it was attacked it went to the terro mode and once it had acquired sufficient strength, guerrilla war. 2014/15 it transitioned to conventional war again in the classi Maoist sense and began to take territory. They were defeated but following the Maoist path they returned to terrorism, eventuall will go back to guerrilla warfare*******”

    well looking back what little I know of boko harem , it seems this explanation of your deserves a place in Wikipedia boko harem section.
    nicely put in simple words.

    by the way your reference of Maoists is intriguing 😀

    “The disadvantage BH has is that their ideological core has been shown to be hollow .”
    here my friend I think you made a mistake.
    but this is something best discussed in private so I leave it here.

    “Daeshs famed administrative skills have not transferred to any other region. We have not seen a well run administrative state, with laws, salaries and public services in Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and definitely not NE Nigeria.”
    forgive me for giving the wrong impression , I was not talking about the civilian administrative skills per se , I was referring to their military / terror applications which can be seen in Afghanistan Pakistan and Bangladesh (other countries are also there but in limited form).
    many civilian governments tend to hide these facts or simply fail to gauge the extent of the problem.

    • peccavi says:

      Thanks Lachit, I actually wrote a piece on it Uproar in the East, Strike in the West: Boko Haram and the Maoist Way of War (http://wp.me/p3KYWL-bJ)
      As per BHs ideological core, I think there are still true believers in the group but after their behaviour to the peoples in the AO I doubt they can get any recruits without terror or money. Despite the sometimes horrendous actions of the Nigerian security forces, they are still seen as the least worst option, and the Nigerian security forces of today are much improved from the early days. Thus I can’t see them reinventing themselves as freedom fighters or something.

    • lachit says:

      read the post at the link you provided and liked it
      the last line
      “As long as Boko Haram retains any organisational or operational ability Boko Haram is not defeated.”

      I was kind of saying the same above in my post 😀

  7. giles says:

    nice piece of analysis
    boko haram is a done deal.

  8. Kay says:

    Precisely so general P,
    At the heart of BH is a weak ideological base, which has shifted drastically through the years. Their early attempts at alliances with external terror groups have been more successful than the current attempt to be an IS affiliate. With the participation of surrounding countries in against the fight with BH, the group has only been more successful to show demonstrations of supposed linkages only probably via twitter reachouts and emails than actual logistical or manpower support.
    At best, BH’s attempt to be a satellite IS state has failed.
    Furthermore, unlike what its happening in Iraq with mostly shia groups leading the fight, the main non military group is the civilian JTF which I’ll suppose mostly consists of same sunnis. Unless, there’s not much of local aversion, I’ll suppose BH would find it difficult to operate continually after they have been militarily degraded to bits and pieces. Government should probably be looking to move in soon after with social groups/credible religious groups looking to diminish the terrorists messages at grassroot levels.

    My own take…

    • peccavi says:

      Exactly Oga Kay, BH missed an opportunity to present themselves as champions of the people or even just their protectors by their mindless slaughter.
      And as you point out one of the key strengths has been the vigilantes, local Kanuri, Hausa, Fulani and other tribes, Christians and Muslims. So its not n us and them, Army of occupation thing.
      The question now is how to preserves the victory. Vigilantes are key to this and in my opinion they should be screened, trained and retained as auxiliary police. Some full time others part time. It will help security, law and order and also pump funds into the community

      • Kay says:

        Quite so, the terrorists are degenerates.Previous atrocities such as the gruesome cleansing of young boys at Buni Yadi, Baga massacre plus the shift to focus on bombing fellow muslims at their places of worship has wiped away any form of empathy the group may have previously had. No mean feat they’re the deadliest terror group in the world above IS.

        One thing I want to ask, what other method is possible for the legions of captured BH in NA custody?
        I’ve read from numerous sources that attempts at deradicalistion from all over the world may have been less successful than what they hoped to achieve

  9. peccavi says:

    Oga Kay, its a massive problem which the FGN seems to be trying to address but with typical Nigerian opaqueness.
    We have people who were forced conscripts, people who were indoctrinated, murderers, criminals etc.
    We have to balance protecting society from unrepentant killers with rehabilitating people who are innocent victims.
    The treatment of Hayatu the husband to me is curious, I do not understand why he is taken to meet the President.
    Personally I would mandate that all BH are detained for at least 2 years, where they are screened and undergo vocational training and basic education.
    By the end of the process, those with cases to answer such as those who have committed massacres should face trial and others reintegrated.
    By definition Hayatu (even if his story is true) is an enemy prisoner of war and should be treated as such until screened.
    But I sympathise with the FGN in a way, they need a good news story

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