The northern portion of Nigeria is generally Islamic. The southern half if Christian – for the most part. There are animistic elements to even “pure” Islam and “pure” Christianity in much of Nigeria. However it’s Nigeria.
In the North, Boko Haram (officially: The Congregation of the People of Tradition for Proselytism of Jihad) is working to purge Nigeria of Christianity through the practice of Jihad. The Name Boko Haram is said by some to mean “western education is harmful” but many of the jihadis don’t really grasp the subtleties of politics and propaganda. They just know that they are poor and living in mud huts and the Christians are doing better, so jihad and thuggery brings in money. It’s the oldest game in the book. As one would expect, the roots of the jihadist movement are tribal with the Kanuri tribe in northeastern Nigeria comprising most of the members. It’s interesting to note that most of the suicide bombers sent out from the Boko Haram are non-Kanuri, or “cannon fodder”.
Both the US Intelligence Community and the US Dept. of Defense (AFRICOM) are trying to untangle the Boko Haram knot. Some (including the US) feel that they are influenced by Al Qaeda, and others dispute that Al Qaeda has any form of guiding influence on them. I don’t dispute that Boko Haram embraces Al Qaeda the way any good jihadi would under the doctrine that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”.
Last week 228 people were killed in a running gun battle between the Nigerian government and jihadists. (Reuters
) The actual number of combatants accounts for roughly 25% of those killed. The balance were civilians caught between two factions exercising the standard “spray and pray” fire control discipline that one would expect.
Ansaru (Vanguard for the Protection of Muslims in Black Africa) broke away (sort of) from Boko Haram and has joined the jihad in Mali. Ansaru fighters are currently fighting the French there. They’ve kidnapped and murdered French and British people in Nigeria in the past. One can say that they’re typical jihadist Muslims without being accused of stereotyping to any significant degree. The tactics are the same.
The United States Africa Command flies its four star flag from Kelly Barracks near Stuttgart, Germany.
The selection of Stuttgart (a really nice place to live) doesn’t surprise me if you want the Africa Command in a nice place to live. There are no locations in the entire continent of Africa that could be said to be as nice. There are only about 2,000 military people assigned to AFRICOM per se. Attached personnel from the intelligence community and foreign service increase that number somewhat and the US Seventeenth Air Force (also in headquartered in Germany) oversees the African Theater. The US Army’s presence (USARAF) is headquartered in Vincenza, Italy. The US Navy (NAVAF) covering Africa is located in Naples, Italy. The US Special Operations Command (SOCAFRICA) operating in Africa is also headquartered in Stuttgart.
And there are thousands of people uncounted in the official record who are working for Private Military Companies (PMC) and Private Intelligence Organizations (PIO) who are doing a lot of the heavy lifting in Africa. Most of those have headquarters presences within the Washington DC Beltway.
There are also “secret drone bases” in Niamey, Nigeria and Camp Lemonnier, Djbouti. They also fly U-28 aircraft and other non-standard aircraft from those bases, not just drones.
Which brings us back to the Boko Haram Jihad. Boko Haram (and Ansaru) are one of the three big jihadi groups in Africa. The US has a lot of hardware on site. There are spooks who have difficulty operating because the different PMC’s, PIO’s and SPECOPS guys keep running into each other — but what are they accomplishing? The answer would seem to be – not that much? I’m sure that Nigeria would welcome a helpful hand from the US in wiping out Boko Haram – but the US is not doing that. We’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year to watch.
But have a plan to kill everyone you meet.