This month brought news that the United States is stepping up its involvement in the fight against Boko Haram. As John Campbell notes in his latest blog, the US will establish a drone base in Cameroon and deploy 300 military personnel in non-combat roles. The announcement follows news that the US has also deployed special operations soldiers to facilitate counter-insurgency against Boko Haram in Niger.
The US bringing its expertise, experience, and resources to bear in the fight against Boko Haram may give a major boost to the regional counter-terrorism effort, but this must be balanced with prudence and restraint. A light footprint, non-combat role is preferable in a region where aggressive interference from Western countries could easily backfire and play into Boko Haram’s hands.
As well as John Campbell’s blog covering the latest US deployment, this month’s briefing includes a piece from Elizabeth Pearson analysing the role of female suicide bombers in Boko Haram and a major report from Cheta Nwanze on communal violence in the Middle Belt.
Boko Haram and Nigeria’s female bombers (paywall – RUSI membership)
Elizabeth Pearson argues that Boko Haram uses female suicide bombers in order to gain maximum publicity for its attacks and enhance the impact of its terror. She further analyses their use at the level of gender norms and at the organisational level.
US drone base in Cameroon
John Campbell gives an overview of the recent announcement that the United States will establish a drone base in Cameroon to aid the region in its fight against Boko Haram. He notes that despite the non-combat role of the personnel deployed there is always a risk of troops getting drawn into confrontation inadvertently.
Terror in Nigeria’s food basket
Cheta Nwanze’s SBM Intelligence issues a major report detailing communal violence in Nigeria’s Middle Belt, an often forgotten conflict that has produced casualties on the same scale as the Boko Haram conflict in north-east Nigeria. The research details methodical violence by herdsmen against host communities, and of herdsmen facing increasing violence from cattle-rustlers, coupled with a decline in grazing resources. Attitudes towards the Fulani are hardening, and there is evidence of a slow loss of confidence in the ability of the security forces to keep law and order.
Key points from this briefing
- Using female suicide bombers allows Boko Haram to maximise publicity for its attacks
- The US deployment to Cameroon can be cautiously welcomed but care must be taken to maintain a light footprint
- The conflict in Nigeria’s Middle Belt is often forgotten; with violence to equal Boko Haram’s and a deteriorating situation the government must restore confidence in its capacity to maintain law and order in the region