The Nigerian Armed Forces last week said it has deployed ground and aerial personnel deep inside Sambisa forest in Northeast Nigeria in a final onslaught against the Boko Haram, to clear the remnants of the terrorists’ enclave and rescue all hostages, including the Chibok girls who were abducted from their school two years ago. Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen. Abayomi Olonishakin announced the operation at the Military Command and Control Centre (MCCC) in Maiduguri, Borno State last week.
According to him, this new onslaught codenamed Operation Crackdown is aimed at smoking out Boko Haram terrorists and destroying their hiding places within the forest as well as rescuing hostages in it. Already, displaced persons in camps have commenced returning to liberated communities. Major challenges being encountered by the troops in the area are landmines and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) deployed by Boko Haram. Happily, the Army said it has counter-IEDs equipment and other ingenious solutions that have been put in place to ensure that the operation goes ahead as planned.
This latest operation to clear out Sambisa forest, the terrorists’ main enclave, is a welcome development and we hope the challenges being encountered by troops would be addressed so that the momentum of the operation could be sustained. The scale of operation by the Army is a sobering indication of its resilience and determination to flush out insurgent groups that thrive on fear and greed. But defeating them cannot be achieved by military might alone unless their governance is weakened and underlying issues that have allowed Boko Haram to thrive are tackled.
It is instructive to note that the Army now has an ambitious plan to do just that, coupled with the troops’ high morale and being conscious of their set objective, they are unrelenting in their determination to defeat the Boko Haram terrorists. The problem isn’t just the military’s fighting performance. Distrust of the army played a significant initial role in Boko Haram’s entrenchment in the region. Only recently, military personnel were accused of committing human rights abuses in the region, hence the need to earn back the public’s trust.
The only way to defeat an insurgency, one with various elements and motivations, is to drain it of this support. It involves denying insurgents space and support by providing reliable security and winning the confidence of local people. The battle then becomes primarily political rather than military. Here, economic development is also key and Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno state has spoken of the need for a ‘Marshall Plan’ for the area to bolster education and employment opportunities.
The rescue operation is necessary to pave the way for the presidential initiative on the rehabilitation of the North-east to take off and President Buhari must further strengthen the military and the cash-strapped government must struggle to fund policies that would boost development programs. For Nigeria to turn things around in Sambisa and to win this war and defeat Boko Haram, the scale of the recent attack should ensure a successful counter-insurgency that must create favourable political dividing lines between government forces and the insurgents.
The government has the opportunity to portray itself as a champion of security and development; therefore it should avoid potential pitfalls and continue adopting a zero tolerance policy that would deny the insurgents military and political space. If we are determined to wipe out terrorists from our land and from the Sambisa axis, the recent tactics, through revolution in strategy and capabilities, coupled with a combination of creative techniques, should be entirely productive in order to deliver the needed vital political victory. Even with the recent suicide bombings, the number one focus of the recent counter-insurgency effort should be to protect the population from any terrorist acts that will prevent the people from marking and celebrating the Christmas and New Year and guarantee long lasting peace in the region. (DailyTrust)