WHY SHOULD YOU CARE?

Because Islamist State in West Africa (ISWA) fighters have continued their run of successful attacks against Nigeria’s security forces, likely prolonging the fight throughout the rainy season and increasing the humanitarian crisis in the Lake Chad Basin region. 

Fighters of the Jihadist group and Boko Haram spinoff, Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA), on Monday attacked a Nigerian Army forward operating base (FOB) in Gajiram, Ngazai Local Government Area of Borno State, killing at least 16 soldiers and wounding scores more, according to military sources.

The attack, which occurred at about 4:30 PM, led to losses of critical war-fighting equipment, including armored personnel carriers and sophisticated firearms.

The insurgents faced little resistance during the attack, according to sources, completely overrunning the FOB before retreating unhindered.

Over the last month, which coincides with the beginning of the raining season, the insurgents have stepped up attack against military positions, killing some senior military officers, including the commander of the 158 Task Force Battalion, stationed in Kareto, about 84 miles from Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, according to informed military and local sources.

Since mid-2018, ISWA have sacked dozens of Nigerian Army FOBs in Borno, killing hundreds of soldiers and wounding many more. Efforts by the Nigerian military to stem their losses have so far failed, as the insurgents have perfected ways of evading the military when it mobilizes massive force, and striking during periods when the military can offer little resistance.

The rapid military losses compelled Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to hastily engage the leadership of some of the lake Chad Basin countries, including Niger and Chad, who agreed to deploy soldiers to join the Nigerian military to stage major clearance operations as part of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF). But the efforts, which were staged in the dry season, have not degraded ISWA capabilities.

Historically, ISWA attacks increase in the rainy season when the LCB terrain limits the Army’s freedom of movement. ISWA fighters, because of their understanding of the environment, have more freedom of movement during the rainy season and leverage their knowledge to attack the Army and stock up on military supplies and food.

Since the Monday attack, the Nigerian military have not offered to address the attack, except to accuse the media, particularly Sahara Reporters of publishing falsehood about Boko Haram attacks with the aim to empower the insurgents and demoralize soldiers.

On Tuesday, apparently in response to the series of successful ISWA attacks and very tepid resistance from the Army, the Nigerian Chief of Army Staff castigated soldiers for failing to defeat ISWA, claiming they lack commitment and threatening not to promote them.

Many Nigerian and international security experts with knowledge of Nigerian military capabilities believe the military lacks the structure, discipline, training, and equipment to decisively deal with the ISWA/Boko Haram threat. In addition, they claim that the campaign against insurgents had become a major money sink-hole, which offers corrupt military officers enormous opportunities to accumulate wealth while prolonging the fight.

President Buhari, who has made anti-corruption a main governance priority, has shown little desire to probe the military or to purge its leadership. Throughout his first term rule, Buhari retained the same leadership of the military, even extending their tenure beyond their mandatory retirement, which motivated some opposition political parties to claim that Buhari retained them, despite their obvious failings, to use them to win re-election.

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