Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Adequate Will Do the Job

I admit I don't have a firm handle on the fight against Boko Haram in Nigeria.

This isn't something that has enough news flow to get a "feel" for the campaign. Sometimes it seems like the government is reeling and sometimes it seems like the jihadis are reeling.

Strategypage writes that Boko Haram is on hard times these days:

Captured Boko Haram men report growing morale problems. Many members oppose the current strategy of carrying out bombing attacks against any target that can be reached. Until late 2015 the Boko Haram mainly attacked the security forces, government officials, non-Moslems and non-religious schools. All those targets are now much better protected and Boko Haram leadership goes after targets it can reach rather than suffer a lot of failed attacks. Now the victims tend to be Moslem women and children and that has caused more Boko Haram men to criticize their leadership (a dangerous move) or desert (also dangerous but less so).

What I can say is that Nigeria shows that you don't need Navy SEALs or Army Delta Force to fight back against jihadis.

Nigeria's military is overall barely adequate with only pockets of decent troops and a lot of junk. Yet they have--as of now--put Boko Haram back on their heels to the point where the only activity the jihadis can carry out alienates civilians around them,

So we don't need great troops to fight ISIL or the Taliban or al Qaeda fighters. Training locals who are merely adequate can work. Especially if they have technical and logistics assistance from the outside to keep the ground forces in the fight.

Speaking of that:

The Pentagon is poised to send dozens of Special Operations advisers to the front lines of Nigeria’s fight against the West African militant group Boko Haram, according to military officials, the latest deployment in conflicts with the Islamic State and its allies. ...

The deployment is a main recommendation of a recent confidential assessment by the top United States Special Operations commander for Africa, Brig. Gen. Donald C. Bolduc. If it is approved, as expected, by the Defense and State Departments, the Americans would serve only in noncombat advisory roles, military officials said.

Let's hope this works.

We have a similar situation in Iraq, as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff explains about our support for a future Mosul offensive:

"One is we want to position ourselves to most effectively support combined arms for [the] Iraqis as they conduct operations, and the second piece is we want to make sure they have uninterrupted flow of logistic support," he said.

"When I make a recommendation to the secretary, it will really -- that's where the qualitative changes would be made," Dunford continued.

And our military hopes to apply that lesson to Afghanistan:

The Pentagon is reassessing the number of U.S. troops it will leave in Afghanistan at the end of the year, based on the needs of local forces, the nation's top military officer said Monday. ...

... I mean, the Afghan forces at the end of the day, were resilient, but they still do have those capability gaps that have been identified and we are certainly looking at that right now and I will be prepared to make recommendations to the secretary as to how we can incorporate the lessons learned from 2015 into more effective operations in 2016," he said.

I know some people like to think that we always have the choice between sending a small number of advisors or sending 100,000 troops, but the latter is sometimes simply necessary because the former isn't enough help.

UPDATE: A late update on the gradual defeat of Boko Haram, and the importance of denying terrorists territory (in the old days, we spoke of them having a "sanctuary," but it is the same thing), as a Foundation for the Defense of Democracies analyst explains:

Boko Haram’s loss of territory is a “first step” to defeating the group, Gartenstein-Ross says, but ending its threat will still take time. “I’d still say it’s a matter of years…these groups tend to be resilient,” he says. “But denying them their [territorial] base is still an essential first step.”

Which is one reason I've been impatient to get on with taking ISIL's territory away from them in Iraq. That's just the first step in a years-long effort after depriving ISIL of territory on the path to defeating them.