The formal claim of responsibility by Boko Haram for the abduction of school boys in Katsina must have sent more worrisome signals to the Nigerian security establishment. Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau’s statement calling the actual handlers of the abduction exercise as their brothers could have many meanings.
It could refer to a convenient relationship that doesn’t go beyond the specific operation just as it could refer to networking that sublets specific operations to specific categories in the radius of terrorism. It could equally be about a tight, formal relationship.
Although the abduction of boys sends a message that Boko Haram has suffered depletion of forces, perhaps due to Air force strafing but also due to internal hemorrhages that is inherent to a life of danger and violent takes in a permanent state of emergency. Unless a sharp rescue occurs in the next few days, the risk of the same boys returning as suicide bombers and strikers is real. They will undergo indoctrination.
It will remain intriguing that there seems to have been no response to the challenge of schools that are vulnerable to invasion and raids throughout Nigeria after the classically successful raids on such schools in Chibok and Dapchi in Borno and Yobe respectively over five years ago.
And why might the counter-terrorism operation not involve the occupation of the Lake Chad area before a day ago when the Sultan of Sokoto made the suggestion? Coming from the Sultan with military pedigree, the non-occupation of the axis ever since may be the most striking indictment of the COIN. Could that have to do with lack of human, financial and technological resources? The National Assembly which approves resources for government to function would hardly agree with that.
Even before the Sultan’s statement, there’s always something hinting lack of the full grasp of the psychology of terrorists as one of perpetual experimentation. And the holistic nature of their thinking, based always on reverse engineering rather than biopolitical reasoning. That way, they are almost always ahead of conventional security practices.
And because their ‘regime of truth’ is stronger than that of neoliberal rationalism, their tactics work for them, makes them to stand up to the might of the most conventional militaries which rely on strafing most of the time.
Above all, they are not just about terrorism. They combine many things into it, anything cheap but enhancing of their relative weakness when matched against most national militaries.
It would be very important to do whatever is doable to erase the hints of inadequate appreciation of the transnationalism of contemporary insurgencies, primacy of quality political leadership and certain military imperatives for surgical successes in COINs. How could the Nigerian military accomplish this much earlier in Liberia and Sierra Leone but not in Nigeria? So much have changed between then and now?