Why military is losing captured territories – Experts
• Managing North East Calls For Intelligent Solutions – Babangida
• Concept Of War Against Terrorists Completely Wrong – Obi
• Lack Of Inter-service Synergy Fuelling Resurgence
• Bad Elements And Fifth Columnists Fingered
Former military brass hats have attributed the rebounding of insurgents in territories hitherto liberated by the Nigerian Armed Forces to a number of factors, including the absence of a blueprint for holding/dominating liberated areas, and the disclosure of vital information and plans to the insurgents, about military strategies, by insiders.
They are also of the view that the Federal Government’s concept of war against terrorists is completely wrong, in addition to the country being plagued by perennial poor maintenance/sustenance culture syndrome.
The resurgence of violence in the region and the loss of liberated territories, attracted the attention of the United States, causing the Department of State to express worries about the country’s inability to effectively secure and hold onto territories recaptured from the terrorists, despite the successes recorded by the Multi-National Joint Task Force.
The position was contained in the United States country report on terrorism for the year 2016, submitted to the US Congress, in compliance with the title 22 of the US Code. The report, published on July 19, 2017, highlighted the successes and failings of the Nigerian Army in the fight against the terrorists.
“Despite gains made by the MNJTF, much of its reported progress was merely duplication of failed efforts carried over from the end of the last dry/fighting season. The Nigerian military was unable to hold and rebuild civilian structures and institutions in those areas it had cleared,” the report said.
The Director of Defence Information, Major General John Eneche, has, however, disagreed with the report, describing its content as misleading and not portraying the reality of things in the fight against insurgents in the North East.
He stressed that the pockets of attacks still experienced were as a result of inside information by Boko Haram collaborators, whom he believes are still amongst the military.
But for Chief Executive Officer (CEO), GoldWater & RiverSand (GWRS) Consults, a defence and national security resource and solutions outfit, Captain Aliyu Umar Babangida (rtd): “In my opinion, why the military is unable to hold on to liberated territories is a combination of two saliently silent factors. First, there is seemingly no blueprint for holding liberated areas, post decimation and downgrading of the threat in 2015. Constituted civil authority, particularly law enforcement agencies may not have a counter or anti terrorism operations procedure. Consequently, affected and or liberated areas, will gradually relapse into the status-quo-ante if those to whom the safe areas are handed over, are not counter and anti terrorism savvy. Their shortcomings become leverages for exploit, by the threat.
“The question thus remains, other than the army, can others, including the Police, NSCDC, NDLEA, Nigeria Custom Services, the DSS, Nigeria Immigrations Services, Nigeria Prisons Services etc, be said to be, in the real sense of the word, in counter, and or anti-terrorism mode? Babangida asked.
He continued, “What other support elements does the Nigerian Army have? Are operations resource and solutions assets like the Air Force aerial surveillance and the relevant communications and information systems being optimally utilized? Are these systems even in existence at all, as opposed to the army being overburdened with expectations for results that out-span its traditional competencies?
While describing the country as one that suffers from chronic maintenance culture malaise as evident in “our propensity to put systems and measures in place and somehow expect these systems to run themselves. We do not track performance, nor seem to keep records of non-performance. We just seem to drift on and on. The strategy and measures applied to liberate areas and decimate insurgent capacity and capability may be suffering from a poor maintenance/sustenance culture syndrome, which is rife with us.”
Former military governor of Bayelsa State, Lt. Colonel Paul Edor Obi (rtd), is of the opinion that, “We are getting the concept of war on terror completely wrong as we are fixated on conventional warfare and going back in every military campaign. So, we need to understand what the strategic objective of war against terror is, and that demands knowing the kind of tactics and the kind of terrors we are fighting against.
“The terrorists we are fighting are people who do not have sovereignty, they do not own a country, and you cannot tell who they are, and where they are. Some of them are in the general area of Sambisa Forest, which is probably their stronghold, but you do not look at that to say we have taken their territory because in every military operation, you dislodge and dominate through different measures, physically, airpower, making sure that those places are registered so that when the enemies return they can be taken out.
The former governor maintained: “We need to be clear on strategy to deploy in the war against terror, and unless we get it clearly, we are going to be fixated on deploying strategy for conventional warfare, holding territory. The war on terror is a long drawn war and if we focus on the strategic objective and come up with a strategy for dealing with this, it will be easier to deal with Boko Haram, and in deed any terror organisation.”
Obi, who is convinced that Boko Haram has penetrated the security forces, especially with the bombing of military formations, also cautioned the military on making some pronouncements and giving ultimatums publicly saying, “We need to talk less and do a lot more using intelligence, otherwise people will begin to loose confidence in the government and the military. I know our security forces are doing a very difficult and complex job because fighting terrorism is not easy. The military command should step back on making political comments and focus on their assignment.”
Air Commodore, Yusuf Anas (rtd) is also in agreement that there should be inter-service synergy if the insurgents must be purged from the communities.
According to him, after the military has liberated a territory, there is supposed to be collaboration and synergy with other security agencies like the Nigerian Police, NSCDC, Immigration Services, to take over, and establish their presence there, by sending manpower and resources that can help restore normalcy.
“Somehow, the other security agencies have not been able to take up the challenge of taking over some of those territories. The military needs the assistance of other security agencies to be able to achieve results,” he said.
Former Commander, Brigade of Guards, General Yakubu Rimdan (rtd), said the country is losing liberated territories to Boko Haram because “there are elements in those areas, who have comprised themselves and leak vital information to the insurgents about military’s strategies and plans.”
Rimdan said that unless such bad elements are done away with in the localities, complete victory over Boko Haram will not be easy. “This is because, after the military operations and captured areas liberated, these same elements will go and tell the insurgents to come back and attack people.”
Rimdam, who also claimed that politicians were funding the insurgents, added that they want the carnage to continue unabated because “it is from it that they make their money. The military should fish out those moles who are doing that unpatriotic act.”
Civil war veteran and professor of Military Strategy at the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), Moses Tedheke, thinks differently and believes that reports that the insurgents were reclaiming liberated territories was tantamount to propaganda intended to weaken the Nigerian Armed Forces.
The former Head of Department of Political Science at the NDA, said poor funding of the military in the war against the insurgents was responsible for the prolonged battle.
The university teacher, who said, “as a matter of fact, it will be difficult to end the Boko Haram insurgency,” added, “If we cannot confront this insurgency properly and deal decisively with all those financing terrorist groups, as well as those who looted funds meant for arms procurement, why are we now beginning to blame the Nigerian Armed Forces for surrendering to Boko Haram?
Retired soldier and veteran journalists in Borno State, Ibrahim Mshelizza, said by reclaiming some territories, Boko Haram insurgents are now out to show people that they are still around, despite being decimated technically by the military.
He therefore urged the military to step up the fight in order to finish strong in a short while.
Giving details of attacks that lend credence to the recapture of liberated territories, Babangida said: “From January to July 31, 2017, 38 reported incidents of insurgent attacks took place in the North East, with the majority occurring in Borno State. A breakdown of this indicates a maximum of eight attacks (and minimum of two attacks) and a seven-month average of five attacks per month, except in April 2017, when only two attacks were recorded, or reported.
“We also observed within the time frame that a monthly average of three days frequency between one attack and the other persisted, while a seven-month attack frequency average, rested on four days between any two attacks. In some isolated cases, attacks recorded a one-day frequency between the last and the next, with other occurring concurrently (i.e. same day, different locations). What intelligence can be gleaned from these figures and others in our holding, can help immensely in identifying the habitual traits of the challenges as they unfold. For example, the ability of the insurgents to attack locations successfully increased at a point, from an average of three days, to 24 hours, between one attack and the other,” the retired captain said.
He continued, “Weighing in on the generally publicised position that insurgency has been downgraded or decimated post-2015, the figures above simply indicate that the insurgents are rebounding. Given the logistics and other related consideration for planning a successful attack, this could mean the ability to do so in an average of three days, is a likely indicator of some form of re-organisation.
On the way out, Babangida said: “We must begin to measure activity sequences to control outcomes; track performance for continuous improvement; keep and update a lessons learnt process data, to avoid doing same thing same way. All these are not in our resonance as a people and nation. The Army is just part and parcel of us… it is not an isolated entity as such.”
He stressed the need for the country to “address a cogent post decimation and liberated areas policy for all stakeholders; lean heavily on deliberately outlined benchmarks, and key performance indicators for results; be a bit more open to third party involvement for informed and measured solutions.
“One must warn though, that doing this calls for meta-cognition on the part of intelligence and law enforcement chieftains; professional and intellectual rigour from all stakeholder groups and agencies, not less so commitment to purpose of all involved.
“We must never underestimate the creative ability of the terror masterminds, who incidentally are not the ragtag itinerant fighters we see getting killed from time to time. Managing the North East calls for intelligent solutions,” he concluded.