The U.S. Bureau of Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism has released its 2015 Country Reports on terrorism, and its findings on Nigeria’s fight against Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram are positive.
Boko Haram, which infamously translates to “Western education is forbidden,” is a jihadist sect that, until recently, controlled a swath of Nigerian territory around the Lake Chad basin — bordered by the nations of Chad, Niger, and Cameroun — that was estimated to be the size of Belgium.
The general elections held in Nigeria last year brought President Muhammadu Buhari to power, and as a part of his campaign manifesto, Buhari promised to bring the Boko Haram insurgency to its end.
A multi-regional counter terrorism approach involving the armies of Chad, Cameroun, Niger, and of course, Nigeria has recorded a series of important victories against Boko Haram.
The report states that “bilateral and multilateral efforts by these regional military forces successfully challenged Boko Haram’s hold on territory, forcing it to abandon major military-style campaigns and revert back to the asymmetric tactics seen in previous years.”
The report confirms claims by Nigerian government spokespersons and the Nigerian military that Boko Haram is on the retreat from its previous military-style onslaught. Those claims have sometimes been disputed by aid agencies, right groups, and members of the Nigerian opposition.
In his speech to mark the first-year anniversary of his government, President Buhari listed the remarkable success of the counter offensive against Boko Haram as one of the foremost achievements of his administration.
Counter-terrorism experts, however, have cautioned that the war is far from over since Boko Haram is adept at changing its strategy as demonstrated by its recent switch to classic guerrilla tactics that pick on soft targets within the civilian population.
The sect has continued to carry out attacks — no matter how limited in scope or frequency — that include armed robberies, abductions, and suicide bombings.
The report also highlighted the need for stronger collaboration among all military and paramilitary forces involved on the front lines as a requirement for effective counter-terrorism operations, stating, “Among the problems that deterred or hindered more effective law enforcement and border security by the Nigerian government were a lack of coordination and cooperation between Nigerian security agencies.”
Since 2011, the Boko Haram insurgency has claimed the lives of more than 28,000 people, created an estimated 200,000 refugees, while rendering an additional 2.8 million people internally displaced within Nigeria alone.