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Putting The War On Terror Back On Track By Nosa James-Igbinadolor

Counter-terror operations are special warfare operations and it therefore follows that at the heart of the military’s counter-terror campaigns should be the use of well trained Special Forces.

The last one month has shown what happens when the military and security services take their eyes off the ball in the war against terror. What with the massacre of scores of college boys at Buni Yadi, the cowardly seizure of our girls at Chibok and the two consecutive bombings in Nyanya along with other under-reported and un-reported massacres, kidnappings and bombings, the malfunction of the counterterrorism strategy is screamingly obvious. It is time to re-tool and re-calibrate this strategy.

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At the heart of this malfunction is the failure of intelligence. The failure of the military as well as the intelligence community to successfully end if not manage this conflict can be traced to their incapacity to procure and properly manage intelligence whether strategic and tactical.  

The failure of intelligence can be seen in the fact that five years after Boko Haram began its ultra-violent revolt against the authority and integrity of the Nigerian state, not one Operations Commander or even field officer of the group has been captured or killed outside the country whether by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) or by the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), the two agencies responsible for foreign covert action operations.

This is despite the fact we have been constantly told that these murderous nihilists traverse between borders and receive trainings as far afield as Somalia and raison d’être of having Intelligence stations in Nigerian Embassies abroad is to gather information about the intentions of both friends as well as hostile elements and to neutralise these threats before they become active. Clearly, in failing to detect the clear and present threat to the integrity of the state by Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda and its North African affiliate, AQIM, both the National Intelligence Agency and the Defence Intelligence Agency have proved themselves not fit for purpose. Of course, as always happens in Nigeria, no one will take responsibility for this failure and no one will pay a price for it. 
The history of the N.I.A, an offshoot of the then Research Department of the Ministry of External Affairs makes it incredibly incapable of effectively undertaking critical intelligence operations overseas. Apart from keeping tabs on diplomatic soirees chit-chats, open source information analysis and monitoring Nigeria émigré groups overseas, this glorified detective agency has been of little or no use to the Nigerian tax payers.

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The failure of intelligence in the war against terror can be linked to the failure of ANALYSIS. Neither the office of the National security Adviser nor the Intelligence Service (N.I.A) nor the Security Service (SSS) nor the Defence Intelligence Agency (D.I.A) possess a meaningful Analysis Directorate that analyses the quality of intelligence procured by these organisations and make projections as to the strategic and tactical implications for the country. Without credible analysis by experts, the President is unable to make critical decisions. One is therefore not only suspicious of the quality of intelligence presented to the President by the security services, I am inclined to posit that the absence of credible intelligence both raw and analysed, leaves the President unable to make rational and credible decisions not only about the war on terror but also about the general welfare of the country.

I will be the first to admit that terrorism is difficult to eliminate as experiences from Israel, India, Northern Ireland and Sri Lanka have proved. However terror campaigns can be contained if not eliminated. This however can only be done with a military that is fit for purpose. The war against Boko Haram is a war that must be won with the enemy raising the while flag in surrender. It can be done. It was done in Sri Lanka with the Tamil Tigers defeated and destroyed in spite of their decades of murderous rage of terror. To effectively win the war against terror and to make the military fit for purpose, I posit the following:

In the war against Boko Haram, the decision by the Military Apparatchik to hand over the supervision of the counter-insurgency campaign from Defence Headquarters (JTF) to the Nigerian Army (newly created 7th Division) was a strategic miscalculation that has led to problems of coordination, planning and response. The outcome of this miscalculation has been increased and emboldened attacks by Boko Haram on hard targets that the JTF had hitherto successfully denied them including Army barracks and Air Force Bases in Maiduguri. I posit that THE COMMAND AND CONTROL OF THE COUNTERINSURGENCY OPERATIONS IN THE NORTH EAST SHOULD BE UNDER THE DEFENCE HEADQUARTERS AND NOT THE ARMY.

Counter-terror operations are special warfare operations and it therefore follows that at the heart of the military’s counter-terror campaigns should be the use of well trained Special Forces. In the fight against Umkhonto we sizwe in South Africa, the South African Security Services employed the strategy of specialist but overwhelming force through the use of special counter-insurgency/terror units made up of operatives of military intelligence, the Bureau of state security (BOSS), and Army/Naval special Forces to engage and overwhelm the armed cells of the ANC’s Umkhonto we Sizwe. In times of war and peril to the life of the state, unconventional warfare becomes necessary. This strategy has worked in South Africa, Angola, Mozambique, Algeria, Israel, Argentina, Brazil, Chile and North Ireland. THERE IS THEREFORE AN URGENT NEED TO CREATE SPECIAL ARMY RANGER UNITS TRAINED SPECIFICALLY IN DESERT WARFARE to be part of the 7th Division. These units will effectively patrol and guard the large stretch of the Nigeria-Niger, Chad and Cameroun borders as well as undertake infiltration and counterinsurgency operations in that operational area.

There is need to beef up the capability of the Nigerian Army to respond rapidly and effectively to active threats against the integrity of the state. The ability of the Army to do this will depend on its mobility and capability. An airborne unit is perhaps the most effective means of do this. It is incumbent that each Division of the Nigerian Army (7 of them) has embedded in them Airborne/ Special Forces Battalion that would serve as the first line of response to active threats in their operational areas of responsibility.

The Niger-Delta region is in my view, a region simmering with latent tensions that have the capacity to become active overtime. The military needs to be prepared to engage forcefully and effectively in the region. This is more so because the AMNESTY programme has been ill-managed in a manner that has excluded many of the ex-combatants and citizens of the region while a few of the militant leaders were compensated with official patronage that included securing national assets. I posit that contracts offered to former militant leaders to secure national assets have the potential of being sources of violent conflicts in the future. Note that in Libya, Ibrahim Jadran a militia leader who was part of the armed groups that overthrew Colonel Muammer Gaddafi was entrusted in late 2012 by the post-Gaddafi government with guarding the Eastern Port as well as oil installations in the East. 

A year later, he took over these assets including hundreds of oil wells and refineries, declared a republic of Cyrenaica and is now in a violent conflict with the state whose army has proved incapable of dislodging his militia from the region they control. Handing over the security of the nation’s prime assets to an armed non-state institution can only turn around to boomerang in the future. The military must be prepared to act when this happens.
To ensure that the military is prepared to engage in a future conflict in the Niger-Delta region, there is an urgent need to put the Nigerian Navy at the forefront of offensive capabilities in the region. To do this, there is need to create a Naval Infantry Force of Division level (15,000-20,000). The Naval Infantry should be part of the Navy under the command of the Chief of Naval Staff and headed by an officer of the rank of Major-General/Rear Admiral. The Naval Infantry should complement an Amphibious Division to be based in the region. This will give the military an effective and efficient capacity to manage conflicts in the region.

Whether in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Sri Lanka, etc the most veritable instrument for engaging the enemy in any theatre of operation has been the HELICOPTER. The use of helicopters by armies in small scale conflicts, insurgencies and counterinsurgencies has largely helped in rapid response, aerial surveillance, effective assault, search and rescue, etc. For the conflict in the North-East, Kaduna and Jos to be effectively contained, there is need for the Air Force to deploy and saturate these areas with combat helicopters. Therefore, it is incumbent that future acquisitions of weaponry for the Air Force and to a lesser extent the Navy emphasise more of helicopters and less of fighter jets that are only effective in large operational theatres with strategic assets to degrade.
The CONTEMPORARY Operational Environment (COE); force design; political and military complexity on the battlefield; joint and combined operations; and mission execution have caused changes that require leaders who can understand strategic implications earlier in their careers than has been required in the past. Therefore, the Nigerian Armed Forces must begin educating officers for strategic leadership positions earlier in the leader development process. The increase in the number, variety, and complexity of missions places a greater demand on the Armed Forces than ever before and creates great ambiguity in the methodology for successful mission accomplishment. Therefore, the Armed Forces must redefine its traditional paradigms of leader development associated with traditional echelons of execution. The need to develop tactical leaders into strategic leaders and to empower them to lead in such a challenging environment has never been more apparent. Strategic leaders responsible for large organizations, thousands of people, and vast resources cannot rely on lower level leadership skills for future success.

Finally, I posit that for any counter-insurgency policy to be effective, the policy must encompass several strategic components especially the economic component. No counterinsurgency strategy will be effective unless the citizens are well fed and economically empowered. There is an urgent need therefore to put in place a grand economic reconstruction and development plan that emphasises AGRICULTURE not only in the conflict regions but throughout the country. AGRICULTURE represents the most effective means to provide fast, well-remunerated jobs to millions of Nigerians within a very short period of time. It is a sector that requires skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled human capital. Developing AGRICULTURE and its value chain has the capacity to provide additional million of jobs to Nigerians in the short, medium and long term. 

Nosa James-Igbinadolor ([email protected]


The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

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