Friday, December 08, 2017

COIN 101*

Nigeria will resort to classic population protection methods in the Boko Haram-vulnerable region. Will this be done correctly or counter-productively?

In theory this is excellent:

After eight years of conflict with Boko Haram, Nigeria has a new strategy to protect its citizens from the terrorist group: fortress towns.

Some of the nearly 2 million displaced people who have fled rural areas in northeast Nigeria now will be housed in fortified towns, ringed by farms, with the rest of the countryside effectively left to fend for itself.

This is classic counter-insurgency. You separate the people in the towns from the insurgents out in the countryside. This either protects friendly people from the insurgents or terrorists; or it keeps hostile people from working with the insurgents or terrorists.

In theory you use the concentration of people to screen the people brought into the defended towns at night so that the towns really are secure.

During the day the people have to be out and about doing their business and living their lives as friendly forces patrol and go after the enemy insurgents in the countryside.

The enemy is denied support (supplies, recruits, and information) from the people as much as possible with this approach and friendly forces hunt down the insurgents who are running out of troops, information, and supplies.

All in theory. But there is a footnote. When you look at the fine print in the footnote, there are obstacles to the theory.

When done badly, friendly forces hunker down in the fortified towns instead of seeking out the enemy in the countryside, and this devolves into a passive defensive strategy.

When done badly, the countryside is treated as a free-fire zone because all of the "good" people and your troops are behind the fortifications.

When done badly, the people can't leave the safety of the fortified towns even during the day to live their lives.

When done badly, in summary, the fortified towns that concentrate the people become concentration camps (not death camps) that punish the people rather than protect them, pushing more people to support the insurgents despite the efforts to separate the people from the insurgents who now control the countryside and effectively besiege the fortified towns, which the insurgents can approach to launch suicide attacks, indirect fire attacks, and eventually conventional assaults to try to take the demoralized and cut off fortified towns held by increasingly demoralized friendly troops.

Nigeria has levels of corruption that make me worry that they will be unable to successfully carry out this strategy rather than doing it correctly.