Source: The Christian Science Monitor
Launched in October 2008, the 2,100-strong US Africa Command – based at Kelley Barracks in Stuttgart-Moehringen, Germany – sends US Army trainers to the African continent. The personnel equip, assist, and train the armies of partner governments in information sharing, counterinsurgency, logistical support, as well as conducting joint exercises. Among the most eager participants are nations of the north African Sahel region, from Senegal in the west to Djibouti in the east, many of which face Islamist insurgent groups that appear to be growing in sophistication and violent capabilities.
But dealing with a group like Boko Haram – a violent Islamist group that has admitted carrying out a series of attacks in Maiduguri that killed more than 30 this week, and more than 200 since the beginning of the year – will require more than a merely military strategy, experts say. Any successful strategy will require efforts to help Nigeria’s poorer and weaker neighbors to patrol their own territory better, along with civilian efforts in Nigeria’s own law enforcement and financial regulatory agencies to sniff out domestic support for the group, and to cut it off from its funding sources.
Nigeria’s military needs more than the kind of counterinsurgency training and equipment that the $300-million Africom has to offer, says J. Peter Pham, director of the Michael S. Ansari Africa Center at the Atlantic Council in Washington.
“Nigeria’s military is not under-resourced,” says Dr. Pham, but other branches of the Nigerian government are, including law enforcement and financial intelligence. The Boko Haram problem must be seen as a regional problem, Pham says, since many of Nigeria’s poorer neighbors have neither the capacity nor the money to adequately patrol their borders in the arid and underpopulated Sahel region, and groups like Boko Haram and the like-minded Al Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) take advantage of that weakness to move around fighters, weapons, and funding for their next attacks.
“When Boko Haram is using borders around Nigeria as a safe haven, the US military can help those other weaker countries around Nigeria to improve their own capabilities to patrol their borders and to deny Boko Haram a safe haven,” says Pham.
“Boko Haram is not a group that can be bought off, like the Niger Delta rebels were, or beaten down, militarily,” Pham adds. “It’s going to be a long process, like the drug war in Mexico, and not something that can be solved overnight.”
Latest attack kills dozens
In the northern Nigerian town of Maiduguri, site of the latest attacks and the reported homebase of Boko Haram, military spokesman Lt. Col. Hassan Mohammed said that gunmen thought to be from Boko Haram had opened fire and set off bombs inside the town’s fish market, killing more than 30 people. The attack followed the arrest of a suspected Islamist at the market last week.
By Scott Baldauf