More than 1,600 people have been killed by Islamist group Boko Haram since June this year, according to Amnesty International. Despite this, Nigerian authorities remain confident that the Boko Haram threat will be eradicated by the end of the year.
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari opted to give the military a three-month deadline to handle the group which ends in December, hoping the provided date would give them the incentive they need to succeed.
“This time around President Buhari gave the military a deadline to defeat Boko Haram, he was in essence giving them a goal and a purpose – he gave them a sense of urgency,” said Tanwa Ashiru, US-trained intelligence and counter improvised explosive device analyst.
Ashiru has been involved in counter insurgency and counter-terrorism operations in South-East Asia, Middle East and Africa and believes this re-energised the military and gave them a “finish line” to direct that energy to.
Some have expressed concern over publicising such deadlines because when they are not met it makes the military look incompetent but Ashiru refers to the massive change that can be noticed since the new administration took over.
“Boko Haram was taking over local governments, they had their flags planted there and since the military came in with this new offensive strategy, they have actually been able to drag them out,” she said.
And as a result of that, Boko Haram struggles to find ways to go into towns, the downside of this means they become more innovative and desperate in their attempts.
The military has also been releasing rescuing a lot of hostages and in response Boko Haram sends more suicide bombers – mostly women because they have more access, Ashiru says that has been an effective strategy.
“It’s just like with anything, if something is effective, you are going to keep using it,” she said.
The military is looking at different ways to make sure it meets this deadline but Ashiru reckons there is room to improve on intelligence capabilities in the country, especially when dealing with Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
“You have to hunker down on the IED networks, you have to figure out who are these guys that are making the IEDs.”
She says, they recently captured a group of people making the explosions, she says once you figure out who is making it then the search becomes more targeted, you take them out of the process and make it harder to continue.
The next step for her is looking at the ingredients used and try to make it difficult to acquire, they recently used citizens and shop owners, a statement was sent out by the military warning citizens of a plan to contaminate the water supply, based on that they asked people to report if they notice any bulk orders for rat poison.
Their analysis now uses two teams to advise the president. The military is divided into two teams, the one team thinks of innovative ways to approach Boko Haram and the “Red Team” plays the role of the devil’s advocate saying why it will not work Ashiru said.