Continuing its sweep across northeastern Nigeria, terrorist group Boko Haram overran an international military base on Saturday. Soldiers posted to the base reportedly ran away instead of standing their ground.
The Multinational Joint Task Force base was host to Cameroonian and Chadian anti-terror soldiers alongside Nigerian forces, but the various factions were reluctant to work together. Vanda Felbab-Brown, an insurgency expert at the Brookings Institution, told The Daily Caller News Foundation that “there’s a lot of buck-passing and rivalry” between the three countries, and Boko Haram spillover into both Chad and Cameroon has had negligible effects on coordination.
Felbab-Brown blamed the weak response on a Nigerian government distracted by economic woes — some driven by the declining price of oil — and an upcoming election centered on the country’s south.
While notorious in West Africa for years, Boko Haram first found international attention when it kidnapped a group of over 200 schoolgirls from Chibok, Nigeria in April of 2014. The girls are still missing and it has been 242 days since First Lady Michelle Obama tweeted the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag.
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Anthony Cordesman, who holds the Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, reminded TheDCNF in an interview that Boko Haram is “not particularly well-trained or disciplined,” making the Nigerian military’s incompetence even more shocking.
The United States had been providing Nigeria with military advisers to assist with the Boko Haram challenge, until Nigeria’s government disinvited them last month. As Felbab-Brown told TheDCNF, “part of the US effort was focused on demanding accountability for corruption as well as for human rights abuses, and the Nigerians have not been at all interested in doing that.”
The attack is unlikely to grab the attention of most Nigerians unless Boko Haram expands its terrorist operations in southern Nigeria. Until then, Cordesman says, the relatively weak military and rebels may continue their give-and-take in the country’s north indefinitely.
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