Saturday, November 07, 2015

War on Terror: Boko Haram Front

Nigeria is getting more serious about fighting jihadis. And we are increasing our level of support to the region,

This is good news from Nigeria:

President Buhari, being a retired army officer, ordered a change in the way the military does business as soon as he came to power in March. As a former general he knew how to assess and address the current commanders and has enacted a number of military reforms. This has led to the dismissal of a lot of officers, especially in the army. One general was even jailed for incompetence, misbehavior and losing a major battle to Boko Haram. There are new training programs, which the troops appreciate as a lot of corrupt or incompetent officers did not want to be bothered in the past. ...

President Buhari has quietly reinstated the use of mercenaries. His predecessor had hired some foreign mercenaries in late 2014 to train and advise (lead) a task force of elite Nigerian troops to quickly crush the most determined Boko Haram resistance. While running for election Buhari condemned this move and sent the mercenaries home once he was in power. Buhari condemned the bribes that accompanied the mercenary deal but his own special operations officers reported that the mercenaries had been quite useful.

And this use of STTEP mercenaries is illustrative of their value:

The men STTEP sent consisted of whites and blacks but all were experienced (often former special operations) combat vets. A few were from outside Africa although most were South African (or from neighboring countries like Namibia). In a few weeks the STTEP force had expanded by selecting competent Nigerian troops and these few hundred men, moving quickly in trucks and a few armored vehicles as the 72nd Mobile Force Battalion, with Nigerian aircraft overhead (some with STTEP men aboard acting as spotters) quickly smashed one “troublesome” Boko Haram group after another. Boko Haram had up to ten thousand armed men in the north organized into dozens of smaller units led by charismatic men of varying military skill. The STTEP force went after the most effective Boko Haram battlegroups, which not only greatly weakened Boko Haram overall but demoralized the less competent Boko Haram leaders and gunmen. This made it easier for the troops from neighboring countries to go after the remaining Boko Haram fighters.

Nigeria just needed a core force of good, mobile troops supported by air power to spearhead the advance by the rest of the ground forces. The jihadi enemies aren't supermen. They're fanatics. And even many of them are just fanatical when they are winning. They can be killed by good troops and even adequate troops if the jihadis are put on the run. The war against Boko Haram isn't won, but the jihadis were hurt.

And this path to success has long been my goal for the war against ISIL in Iraq. I've wanted core forces to spearhead the attacks.

Yet over a year into our effort, we're still just a PowerPoint presentation away from unleashing trained fury on the fairly small ISIL ground army in Iraq. How good and numerous do the Iraqis have to be, anyway?

But I (sort of) digress.

Back in Africa, we are working with Nigeria and Nigeria's neighbors Cameroon, Niger, and Chad (and Benin, too, if the accompanying map is indicative of the scope) to help kill Boko Haram jihadis:

"This training is part of U.S. AFRICOM's core mission to help our partners strengthen their defense capabilities," Prichard said. "The skills gained during these military-to-military exchanges can be used by the participants for a broad range of activities to secure their home countries or contribute to a regional security effort."

The number of troops involved is small but will work with local forces to make them more effective.