THE BLOG
06/13/2014 10:47 am ET Updated Aug 12, 2014

Ambassador Sanders' U.S. Congress Testimony on Boko Haram

The Nigerian Security Services in the Face of Boko Haram:
Current Nigerian security services have never experienced anything like what they are facing with Boko Haram. They need to understand that Boko Haram is unlike the Niger Delta conflict and that play book is not the approach for the fight with Boko Haram. Boko Haram is executing asymmetrical warfare, and for the most part this is outside of the framework of the security forces and their capability to effectively respond. The Nigerian troops that have been in recent conflicts in northern Mali and Darfur probably are the few that have had the closest experience in asymmetrical warfare. Thus, the existing challenges in some of the security structures are more evident now as they are finding it difficult to cope with this new threat. It is good that Nigeria has accepted international assistance to begin to address some of these structural challenges.

Thus, assistance is needed in the following areas:

--Airlift: as it is important to troop rotation, reduces travel distances over tough road travel to the Northeast; and, allows for faster reaction to the changing situation in over 60,000 square miles of territory about the size of Georgia or Wisconsin, in which Boko Haram currently operates
--Equipment & Military Planning: more materiel, mobile communication, vehicles, technology-based bomb detection equipment, supplies, logistics,
--Improvement: better control over porous borders, military planning, and logistics;
--Personnel: expand its small special forces unit, and its 24/7 counter terrorism center;
--Resources: establish a satellite counter terrorism center closer to the Northeast so information can be quickly analyzed, increase Rapid Response Forces, add more outposts;
--Communications: Improve strategic communications, particularly with families of the missing girls; and, establish a liaison committee led by a respected human rights advocate that keeps the families informed. No press spokesperson, in order to avoid the Malaysia flight MH370 family fiasco;
-- Increase the number of Kanuri speakers in the mostly Hausa-speaking security services.

The Long War & The Long Conflict:
Nigeria is at the beginning of a long conflict; they have to realize this. This is no longer a localized insurgency. There is no easy fix and every attack in response to Boko Haram cannot be viewed a death knell blow to it -- a long range security framework is needed. The security services need to regroup, re-approach, and re-address to get off their heels on the defense and get on an aggressive offense.

There are people and elements in the Nigerian military that are committed and serious, but they are under-supported and need resources. This does not dilute the real challenges of reports in the past of corruption and failure to respond. This war will have to be fought by the Nigerian security forces, with help from the international community. They are the vanguard of this conflict, so we need to help them pull up their boots straps as an institution to address any challenges. If the entire security structure becomes demoralized who is going to fight this conflict? There have already reportedly been 1-2 incidents where military units have shown their frustration by shooting at commanders' convoys.

Relationship with Neighboring Intelligent Services & Food Security:
Human intelligence from villagers in Nigeria and neighboring countries will be critical to fighting this war. So we need to help build trust among neighboring countries' security services. In addition, the international community needs to keep an eye on the food security situation as food shortages could become an issue down the line since Boko Haram's brutality has caused several villages and markets to just disappear.

Designation of Boko Haram as Foreign Terrorist Organization:
Boko Haram, in some form, has been around since the late 1990s, but was more commonly known before as the Nigerian Taliban; it is not a new organization. Prior to the last four years it executed localized sabotage, attacked police stations, recruited young people, but no kidnapping. Evidence of some Boko Haram contacts with AQIM started to surface about 9 months after the July 2009 extrajudicial killing of its then-leader Muhammad Yusef and his lieutenant Al Haji Buji Foi. The morphing of Boko Haram using Al-Qaeda/AQIM-like tactics to establish an Islamic Caliphate began surfacing in mid-2011 with the August 2011 bombing of the UN Headquarters in Abuja; since 2012-2014 it has become expansive in its reach, and brutality.

Prior to the August 2011 UN bombing, Boko Haram would not have likely met the third leg of the FTO citation:

1. Foreign Organization;
2. Engage in terrorist activity as stated in the Immigration and Nationality and Foreign Relations Authorization Acts);
3. Its terrorist activity must threaten the security of U.S. nationals and/or U.S. National Security interests.

The Abuja UN bombing showed Boko Haram's reach; capability, and brutality, and its use of Al-Qaeda inspired tactics; underscoring all nationals were at risk.

Chibook:
Despite reports out of Nigeria, it is unlikely the girls remain in Nigeria. We have no idea how long ago the videos being shown were taken. It is more likely most have been put into smaller groups, taken across to Chad and Cameroon, or elsewhere, or kept in smaller groups/singularly in Nigeria.

Boko Haram's Shekerau is acting on one of his stated goals that he would: make the mothers and daughters of Nigeria suffer in revenge for the capture of some of Boko Haram's family members by Nigerian security forces. A few recommendations on the human side of this issue regarding assistance:

1) More trauma and grief counseling for families and the returned girls;
2) Ensure the girls who returned and their families are protected so they don't become victims again;
3) President Jonathan should meet with the families, even if it is not in Chibook;
4) Same level of financial/technical resources used to find Malaysia MH 370 for 237 people should be used to find the 247 girls no matter in what country they are located.

See Ambassador Sanders' full testimony