A year ago, a dozen Nigerian troops fighting about 200 Boko Haram militants in the town of Chibok exhausted their ammunition and ran, leaving the road open for the abduction of nearly 300 girls.
Today, Nigerian soldiers are rescuing hundreds of kidnapped girls and women from the last forest stronghold of the Islamic insurgents.
The reason for the unimaginably swift shift in fortunes?
In the last three months, military forces from neighboring Chad, Niger and Cameroon have joined the battle. In addition, Nigerian troops are finally receiving better arms and weapons, as well as hazard pay that they had not received until this year.
I don't buy that explanation. One could say that the introduction of better troops from Chad, Niger, and Cameroon explain the defeat of Boko Haram. But you can't say that has made the Nigerian troops fight better.
And crappy soldiers who are paid are just crappy soldiers who have been paid.
Further, crappy soldiers with better weapons and sufficient ammunition usually just end up with scraps of better weapons lying next to dead crappy soldiers or miles behind those same troops running away.
The factors noted in the article mostly seem marginal to me. Helpful, yes. But not something that explains the dramatic change in fighting ability.
The most important factor noted is that fresh Nigerian troops were brought in to replace tired and defeat-prone soldiers who lost so much to Boko Haram.
One factor not noted is the hiring of mercenaries by Nigeria's government. I'd like to know what their role has been in this recovery.
The bottom line is that jihadis are hardly invincible. And if you have ammo and troops willing to stand and fight, killing martyrdom-prone jihadis is fun and easy.
And while I'm at it, why are countries willing to hire mercenaries to fight--the basic duty of a government--but nobody considers mercenary bureaucrats to run important ministries to clean up corruption that often leads to the need for mercenary soldiers?
UPDATE: I wonder if news will eventually leak out that this dramatic improvement in Nigerian army fighting abilities has been at least partly engineered by an AFRICOM-led special forces effort--perhaps including those mercenaries that Nigeria hired before their recent elections.
And I'm just speculating here, of course.
UPDATE: How much better is the Nigerian army? This is what I'm talking about:
Having defeated al Qaeda in Mali two years ago, Chad's military believes it could finish off Boko Haram alone. It has notched up victories that have pushed the Nigerian militants back from the Cameroonian border. ...
Nigeria has managed to roll back most of the group's gains since the start of the year with the help of offensives launched by Chad and Niger into Nigerian territory while Cameroon has repeatedly repelled attacks on its border towns.
Is Nigeria's army simply exploiting what other armies have done?
If so, this bolsters my view that Iraq could go on offensive if they have small mobile offensive forces to lead their attacks while they follow up to occupy territory.