Small Wars Journal

Nigeria Military Studies Sri Lankan Tactics for Use Against Boko Haram

Nigeria Military Studies Sri Lankan Tactics for Use Against Boko Haram by David Dolan, Reuters (13 June)

Nigeria is studying the military tactics used by Sri Lanka to crush the rebel Tamil Tigers for its own battle against Islamist group Boko Haram, the defense ministry said, after holding talks with officials from the island nation.

Abuja has been criticized for its failure to contain the militant group, which has killed thousands since 2009 and has stepped up its devastating attacks after abducting more than 200 girls from a school in northeast Nigeria.

Boko Haram, which wants to carve out an Islamist state in northern Nigeria, has exposed severe weaknesses in Abuja's security forces and heaped political pressure on President Goodluck Jonathan, who has declared a "full-scale operation" against the group…

Read on.

Comments

KingJaja

Thu, 06/26/2014 - 7:42pm

Considering that:

1. Algeria dealt brutally with an insurgency.
2. There's no example of the "touchy-feely" approach the West advocates comprehensively dealing with an insurgency in Africa.

It is safe to say that the Nigerian Army will adopt something along the lines of Sri Lanka/Algeria to finally finish off Boko Haram.

I don't support it, but that most likely reflects the thinking of senior Army leadership.

KingJaja

Thu, 06/26/2014 - 1:42pm

I'm not justifying anything. I'm just telling you what is likely to happen, having lived almost all my life in Nigeria.

In 1980, 5,000 people were killed in a single day to deal with the "Maitatsine crises". It went on & off for 10 years, but it was finally dealt with - with terrible brutality.

In 1994, the Nigerian Army (with the support of oil & gas companies & not too much trouble from the British) destroyed 30 villages & killed 3,000 people in a single day. Same was repeated in 1999 in Odi (in the Niger Delta) - about 2,400 were killed then.

If you doubt the complicity of the oil & gas companies (& a nod and wink from the British) - go and read about Ken Saro-Wiwa's death.

During Nigeria's civil war, Shell transported govt troops in disused tankers & the British flooded the FG troops with arms - those troops later went on to starve millions - while Harold Wilson defended it.

These are historical facts.

Insurgencies have always been put down with maximum brutality in Nigeria. Doesn't matter whether it was Hugh Trenchard's Southern Nigeria Regiment or Murtala Muhammed's Second Division - & we know the British, they support the brutality, always have - their protests mean nothing. Nigerian leaders can smell their hypocrisy from a mile.

So in summary; I don't justify brutality, but we Nigerians know what will happen - & we also know that the British & American govts will silently support the massive brutality that is coming Boko Haram's way.

They've always done that - & they know the Nigerian Army is eventually going to adopt a Sri Lankan or an Algerian solution to this problem.

Bill M.

Thu, 06/26/2014 - 1:42pm

In reply to by MoorthyM

Can you share your views on how to make the mosques more benevolent?

MoorthyM

Thu, 06/26/2014 - 8:28am

At the end of a day, a solution has to be specific to a problem.

As an Indian Tamil myself and the author of Defeating Political Islam, here are my perspectives on this.

I must say that the Sri Lankan leadership understood their LTTE enemy and waged an incisive war, thanks largely to home-grown strategies. Indeed, the leadership also understood that it should not look toward the Western nations for any advice or strategy given the West's proven inability to overcome modern insurgencies.

Yes, sadly tens of thousands of Tamil civilians have apparently been killed in the final phases of the war. But I do think that if Sri Lanka can grow its economy, over time, this will lead to a natural integration of its Tamil population. This is because the Tamil population in Sri Lanka is predominantly Hindu and is largely secular.

Those who want to apply the so-called Sri Lankan strategy to tackling Muslim insurgencies must be beware of an important distinction. The Hindu temples in Sri Lanka, by and large, were not the base of ideological indoctrination. But mosques in a Muslim community are usually the place from which indoctrination originates.

An incisive war on Muslim radicalism, be it directed at Boko Haram or any other militant group, has to find a way to make the mosque benevolent. There are ways of doing that.

Robert C. Jones

Wed, 06/25/2014 - 3:05pm

In reply to by Bill C.

Bill C.,

I have no specific on the ground expertise in Nigeria - but I suspect one would find that grievances between the populations occupying northern Nigeria and those occupying southern Nigeria go back much farther than any current efforts to "Westernize" that nation.

What you see as the casus belli is probably more likely just the most recent straw added to the proverbial camel's back.

Plus, and more importantly, Boko Haram is the insurgent, not the insurgency! We agonize far too much over the ideologies and the agendas of those organizations who actively take up arms to coerce some government while leveraging the energy of a population with high conditions of insurgency with that same government. Find out and focus on the concerns of the people, not those of Boko Haram and its leadership. They may leverage the support of the people, but I doubt strongly the represent the majority will of the people.

The same is true of AQ. AQ is nothing without the support of the many populations they tap into that are each uniquely experiencing high conditions of insurgency in their relationships with their respective governments. What AQ wants is not something to ignore, but it is not logical to assume that the people of any particular nation want what AQ is selling simply because they accept they help. AQ conducts UW and is not an insurgent, but the same principles apply.

Focus on the people, not the organizations. Let the intel community study the insurgents, develop vast analysis of "the threat" and feed broad targeting characterizations such as the "AQAA" construct that lumps disparate actors together by criteria that have little to do with primary purpose for action, or the relationship of some group to the population they act among, or the government they challenge. This facilitates tactical targeting, but it making our odds of strategic success dimmer by the day.

We are too symptomatic in our thinking. Too biased by "good vs. evil" or "Legal vs. illegal" in our thinking. Too tactical in our thinking. Recognizing and focusing on the insurgency as distinct from the various insurgents or UW actors or "terrorists" is a critical step in getting to a more effective perspective.

Bob

Bill C.

Wed, 06/25/2014 - 1:57pm

In reply to by Robert C. Jones

"The 'insurgency' are those conditions existing within the population base the insurgents emerge from. Conditions based upon a widespread belief within that population that the current system of governance is intolerable in its current form, and equally, that no effective legal mechanism exists to implement the necessary changes to address those aspects of governance perceived as intolerable."

As relates to various insurgencies/rebellions/conflicts today, to include, might I suggest, that of Boko Haram, the specific intolerable "condition" which exists is that the governments of these nations are seen to be (1) working with Western governments and businesses to (2) rapidly transform the subject state and societies more along modern western political, economic, social, justice, etc., lines.

For the leaders of Boko Haram -- and other such entities -- it would appear that these such horrific, abominable and profane changes will be allowed to occur only over their dead bodies, the endless dead bodies of those leaders who will take up this cause once they are gone, and the dead bodies of many of their countrymen/women who will be killed in these conflicts.

For national security reasons, the governments and populations of the West -- and the governments and populations of various less-western states and societies today -- believe that these "westernizing" activities must be carried out; sooner rather than later.

This, I believe, is the specific dilemma.

What, might I ask, are the specific solutions to this specific problem?

Bill M.

Thu, 06/26/2014 - 3:30am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

I think administration does get it, and they see the dots, but it is a wicked problem where there are only less bad options. I think there is general agreement that AQ fanatics are the near term threat to our national security, so we may have no choice but to support Maliki for now to target ISIS, and that by default supports Iran. Despite Iranian rhetoric they appear to be rational actors, so they can be deterred to some extent, but not AQ. What we shouldn't do this is confuse this with our recent experience in Iraq, we really do have a threat to the U.S. now if AQ establishes a safe haven there.

Outlaw 09

Wed, 06/25/2014 - 8:38am

In reply to by Robert C. Jones

Robert---this paragraph sums up the current Sunni insurgency drivers and why we do anything there will in the end lead to nothing as long as the current dictator Malaki remains as locked into his position as he is. Why the word dictator---he has effectively used the US written constitution to take power and to hold power and even when we still were boots on the ground until 2011 he ignored US input to resolving as you rightly point out "perceived governance issues" by the Sunni.

Now he wants "emergency powers" which will make him "legally" stronger than Saddam ever was even in his worst years. And what is interesting "legally" a dictator using the US written constitution and democratic elections overseen by the US. That is a first in the ME.

"We really debate the wrong thing when we argue waging COIN as war vs. waging COIN as some sort of community service project. Neither approach is likely to succeed if one is only interested in defeating the current insurgent and preserving the current government. The real issue is the failure to recognize and address the causal role of governance in insurgency, and the failure to recognize that insurgency is a very naturally occurring condition when certain negative perceptions of governance come to grow within a particular population."

We have a perfect example now with Malaki/Iraq of what happens when the "governance" side overreaches and the population effected takes up arms as a whole population. What surprises me is that we "saw" this coming when we were in Iraq until 2011, we "saw" the anti Sunni actions of Malaki in 2012 and we "saw" both the anti Sunni and anti Kurdish actions by the Malaki government aggressively starting in Dec 2013 and YET we were "surprised" when we "saw" what is in effect a Sunni uprising against the ("perceived-which in fact were actual events on the ground") governance failures.

Can anyone explain to me why we at the US senior civilian leadership still do connect the dots?

Robert C. Jones

Wed, 06/25/2014 - 7:32am

One of the biggest problems with current (and historic for that matter) COIN Doctrine and thinking is the continued failure to separate the "insurgent" from the "insurgency."

The "insurgents" are those acting out illegally, and often violently, to coerce change of some existing system of governance.

The "insurgency" are those conditions existing within the population base the insurgents emerge from. Conditions based upon a widespread believe within that population that the current system of governance is intolerable in its current form, and equally, that no effective legal mechanism exists to implement the necessary changes to address those aspects of governance perceived as intolerable.

These are two VERY different things. Most all COIN focuses on the insurgent. In fact, a widely cited recent study of COIN victories and defeats conducted by RAND used two criteria to determine a COIN victory: The insurgent was defeated; and the government remained un-coerced. To me, this is not "victory," this is simply suppression of the current team of challengers in a manner that merely suppresses the active symptoms of insurgency for some period of time. IMO, RAND completely missed the ball on this one. They are in good company, but just because everybody else is standing in the wrong line is no reason to queue up behind them.

So, to the Sri Lanka example. The Sri Lankans defeated the insurgents, and frankly, the Tamil Tigers as insurgents were not healthy representatives of the very valid insurgency existing within the Tamil population of Sri Lanka. The problem with the Sri Lankan strategy is that while it was extremely effective in defeating the insurgent; I strongly suspect that by its very nature it was equally effective in making the underlying insurgency STRONGER.

This is not a COIN victory for the government of Sri Lanka; and it is certainly not a governance victory for the people of Sri Lanka. The strategy did buy time and space for governance to adopt necessary and reasonable reforms to address the critical grievances of the Tamils - but if they believe they "won" they are unlikely to take advantage of what this harsh military action has bought them to undergo reform. Winners rarely seek to evolve (look at the post Cold War United States as a great example of that).

Most likely the Tamil insurgency will roar back to life within 10-20 years (based on historical precedent elsewhere when insurgents are defeated but insurgency goes unaddressed). Or as early as 2-3 years later if one takes the current Iraq example for what it is.

We really debate the wrong thing when we argue waging COIN as war vs. waging COIN as some sort of community service project. Neither approach is likely to succeed if one is only interested in defeating the current insurgent and preserving the current government. The real issue is the failure to recognize and address the causal role of governance in insurgency, and the failure to recognize that insurgency is a very naturally occurring condition when certain negative perceptions of governance come to grow within a particular population.

Our founding fathers recognized insurgency for what it is. Jefferson, Franklin and John Adams detailed this in the Declaration Independence; Madison designed powerful mechanisms to prevent the growth of insurgency in the Bill of Rights; and John Quincy Adams (our greatest diplomat) often recognized the right and goodness of foreign populations to rise up and remove the heads from despotic leaders.

We have lost our way as a nation over the past 70 years and have come to believe that stasis of government is the path to stability of governance. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

The answer to a better American future lies in our troubled American past. We should not fear that history or those beliefs. They are both wise and sound - and are very applicable to the modern age.

I do not recommend the Sri Lankan approach, but nor do I condemn them for using it. I suspect it will blow up in their face, particularly if those who offer them advice do not appreciate the distinction of what they truly accomplished through their actions, and what they must do now to heal the wounds across a war torn population. Not just those injured by the Tigers, but among those represented by the Tigers as well.

Nigeria has serious problems of governance. Boko Haram is just a symptom of those problems. Adopting a Sri Lankan approach my well destroy Boko Haram, but I suspect it will speed and feed the growing clash between the deeply divided populations of that nation.

Bob

KingJaja

Fri, 06/27/2014 - 2:50pm

In reply to by Mark Adams

Nigeria has changed somewhat from the 1980s; the military no longer has "monopoly of power" - and that isn't likely to change, no matter what.

The thing is this - unlike say, Niger Delta militants, there is no logical ground for a "negotiated settlement" with Boko Haram, so they have to be crushed - and sadly, there could be a willingness to take "collateral damages".

As for the military returning to power - they'll have to deal with two (or possibly three insurgencies) if they try that - or the end of the Nigerian State (an artificial state in any case). Smart people know this.

So, if Nigeria is to survive as a coherent entity, two things must happen.
1. Boko Haram must be crushed.
2. The military MUST NOT return to power.

How this is to be accomplished is left to political science scholars.

Mark Adams

Fri, 06/27/2014 - 7:28am

In reply to by KingJaja

It is not the 'massive brutality' towards Boko Haram that generates concern but rather that which will be directed at the civilian population who find themselves caught up in the bloodshed. Nigeria (and other African countries) has no need to learn from anyone about how to crush an insurrection (as you list examples of Nigerian experience in this regard). The problem the civilian political leaders have is that if they give the military the power and the resources to crush Boko Haram then the likelihood of an eventual military coup comes into play. A catch-22 situation if there ever was one.

KingJaja

Thu, 06/26/2014 - 1:48pm

In reply to by Mark Adams

I'm not justifying anything. I'm just telling you what is likely to happen, having lived almost all my life in Nigeria.
In 1980, 5,000 people were killed in a single day to deal with the "Maitatsine crises". It went on & off for 10 years, but it was finally dealt with - with terrible brutality.

In 1994, the Nigerian Army (with the support of oil & gas companies & not too much trouble from the British) destroyed 30 villages & killed 3,000 people in a single day. Same was repeated in 1999 in Odi (in the Niger Delta) - about 2,400 were killed then.

If you doubt the complicity of the oil & gas companies (& a nod and wink from the British) - go and read about Ken Saro-Wiwa's death.

During Nigeria's civil war, Shell transported govt troops in disused tankers & the British flooded the FG troops with arms - those troops later went on to starve millions - while Harold Wilson defended it.
These are historical facts.

Insurgencies have always been put down with maximum brutality in Nigeria. Doesn't matter whether it was Hugh Trenchard's Southern Nigeria Regiment or Murtala Muhammed's Second Division - & we know the British, they support the brutality, always have - their protests mean nothing. Nigerian leaders can smell their hypocrisy from a mile.

So in summary; I don't justify brutality, but we Nigerians know what will happen - & we also know that the British & American govts will silently support the massive brutality that is coming Boko Haram's way.

They've always done that - & they know the Nigerian Army is eventually going to adopt a Sri Lankan or an Algerian solution to this problem.

Mark Adams

Thu, 06/26/2014 - 8:25am

In reply to by KingJaja

Yes, that is mostly true,but...

During the Cold War many millions of people were killed across Africa and elsewhere where conflicts were driven through support from the Soviets or Chinese against regimes supported by the US and the West.

While the US, the West, the Soviets and the Chinese carry a responsibility for the carnage through the fires they stoked nothing... NOTHING... can excuse or exonerate the brutal depravity of the trigger-men and machete weilding thugs (sometimes refered to as soldiers) who routinely massacred civilians on a massive scale during these conflicts and after.

To be clear and honest with you King Jaja these abuses as carried out by the Nigerian military have continued since Biafra, through Sierra Leone, Liberia and in Nigeria itself. There is little point in attempting to deflect the blame to the Brits and oil companies when the actual brutal killing is done by Nigerian soldiers.

KingJaja

Mon, 06/23/2014 - 7:11pm

Similar scorched earth tactics were used during the Nigerian Civil War (1967-70), with Britain providing most of the weapons, combat advisors & diplomatic cover.

If you guys remember "Biafra" and 1-2 million kids deliberately starved to death. The Nigerian Army couldn't have pulled that off without British support.

It can happen very easily in future - after all, the crude oil is still in the South & Britain still needs the crude oil (Shell is still a major player).

It is likely to kick-off after the next elections.

carl

Thu, 06/26/2014 - 8:55pm

In reply to by Robert C. Jones

Robert C Jones:

Regarding your last paragraph above:

"Bottom line, is our strategy of the past 70 years or so of attempting to preserve or create governments we think will be best for us has not been successful, is inconsistent with our principles, validates our greatest critics and true threats greatest criticism of us; and should be retired."

Attempting to preserve or create governments favorable to us beats by a mile allowing the creation of governments unfavorable to us. Especially when such a potential government's formation would be hugely unfavorable to us, as is the case with ISIS now (though there probably isn't so much we can do about that now). It is in fact illogical that we would abide the formation of govs that could do us harm.

When you speak of "our principles", those encompass far more than simply forming a gov through violent revolt. They encompass things like the various freedoms and rights enumerated in the Declaration and the Constitution. Outstanding among those freedoms and rights are the rights to free speech and religion, both of which BH and ISIS are violently opposed to. To suggest, as it seems to me you do, that those movements are to be mentioned in the same breath as that led by our Founding Fathers is horribly grotesque.

Robert C. Jones

Thu, 06/26/2014 - 7:20am

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill,
Revolutionary insurgency threaten the form or existence of GOVERNMENT, not the nation. Huge difference. Really just illegal democracy, typically where no effective self-determined legal democracy exists.

Two, the recognition and support of the right of populations to conduct governmental change through illegal (and typically ideologically focused and tactically violent) means is US founding principle #1.

Lastly, causation among the populations these movements emerge from almost always comes from the government being challenged (I qualify with"almost", but can't think of a single one).

Bottom line, is our strategy of the past 70 years or so of attempting to preserve or create governments we think will be best for us has not been successful, is inconsistent with our principles, validates our greatest critics and true threats greatest criticism of us; and should be retired.

carl

Wed, 06/25/2014 - 6:59pm

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill M.:

I agree fully with every word of your first paragraph and with the spirit of the second.

Bill M.

Wed, 06/25/2014 - 2:22pm

In reply to by carl

Carl,

I am not advocating killing civilians, and in my opinion we kill too many now by defaulting to air strikes instead of closing with and killing the insurgent. My point is we fool ourselves when we think we can defeat an insurgency by focusing on haphazard economic development projects and not effectively pursuing and killing the insurgents. To include those that seek safe haven across the border. We have a very naive approach to COIN. Tell me where we won when we didn't conduct aggressive offensive operations? Mao was about to be soundly defeated, but was spared by the Japanese invasion which diverted forces and over time changed the variables into Mao's favor. Something to with chance and all that.

What worked in other places is often irrelevant, since each insurgency is unique. Bob makes many good points about the political aspects ultimately leading to a sustainable peace, where we diverge is I don't think our military can fix that, and based on our national interests we may need alternative approaches to protect those interests militarily when the supported government is hopelessly corrupt. A long term diplomatic approach may eventually convince the government to transform, in the mean time we have interests to protect.

Mark Adams

Tue, 06/24/2014 - 10:32pm

In reply to by carl

Carl, and the lesson in this regard are the Sabra and Shatila massacres in the Lebanon back in 1982 where allies (as in the enemy of my enemy is my friend) of the Israelis butchered about 3,500 civilians in the camps.

carl

Tue, 06/24/2014 - 2:06pm

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill M.:

Does "...half footing in a counterinsurgency..." mean not worrying about killing civilians? This seems a very dangerous phrase that will lead to a very slippery slope that empties into a place we don't want to go.

We have won small wars before and know how to do it without becoming beasts it seems to me.

Mark Adams

Thu, 06/26/2014 - 3:26am

In reply to by carl

I was taught that the grand strategy of any conflict covered what outcome was desired. This then governed the actions during the conflict. Sadly actions taken during the conflict often - as in your examples - complicated the post conflict era for many years to come rather than facilitate reconciliation. These strategic considerations are what your ever so clever 'ivy league' educated political masters should have thought through... but clearly never have and never do (and are probably not capable of).

carl

Wed, 06/25/2014 - 7:04pm

In reply to by Mark Adams

Mark:

The problem with the 'teaching them a lesson' approach is I think they mostly learn the wrong lesson; the lesson they learn being they will hate you for generations after school is over. They may stay quiet but that hate will linger until it gets a chance to be exercised. The Chinese still remember what Japan did during WWII as do the Filipinos. And from what I've read, most everybody who has been occupied by the Russians hates them still.

Mark Adams

Tue, 06/24/2014 - 10:18pm

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill I have a basic understanding of why they needed to end the civil war in that it had lasted 25 odd years and cost the economy an estimated $200billion. The operation which ended the war cost $5.5billion and a further $2.25billion in post war development expenditure in the North. On face value that seems like a bargain.

Now here's the crunch... an estimated 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the process. The Sri Lankan government claimed civilian deaths to be 3,000-5,000 and recently revised that up to around 12,000. Sir Lanka is resisting a demand from the UN to hold a war crimes probe.

OK so what they did worked... at an incredible civilian cost. The question is was this collateral damage unavoidable or was it part of "teaching the Tamils" a lesson they won't easily forget (rather like Mugabe did to the Ndebele people in Zimbabwe in the 80's)?

Bill M.

Tue, 06/24/2014 - 1:44pm

In reply to by Mark Adams

We don't support it, but that doesn't mean genocide isn't a strategy. We don't conduct unrestricted warfare, but others do. As you know the distinction between combatants and civilians are often blurred, though less so in Sri Lanka than other irregular conflicts. If we are going to push alternative strategies we need to provide workable alternatives, not simply moralistic preaching. We have failed to do this in many cases. We push models that feel good to us and after we prolonged the conflict we leave when we get tired. It is clear to see why countries are exploring alternative strategies.

I wouldn't accuse Sri Lanka of committing genocide without evidence, and that doesn't mean N GO reporting. The separatists were masters of propaganda. I suspect a lot of bad happened, but I remain suspicious of genocide claims.

Interference by the west and India prolonged the conflict, while support from China helped tilt the odds by enabling them to conduct a decisive campaign. If you represented the government how would you have executed the strategy?

Mark Adams

Tue, 06/24/2014 - 8:40am

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill, a good question... but that is how the US led West has behaved in the past... with almost universal failure it must be said. If the indiscriminate killing of civilians is to once again become the nature of war I am happy I am out of it. If you are looking for a method of victory through the indiscriminate butchering of civilians then a better probably more decisive example is that of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe. Mugabe saw that if the population were the water within the insurgents swam like fish the easiest method of getting the insurgents (or dissidents as they were called) was to poison the water. Look up the Gukurahundi Massacres on Google and see that it is reasonably simple to do this if you have a military comprised of animals capable of indescribable and ruthless brutality (much like ISIS has shown in Syria and Iraq). China and Russia understand this method just as the Germans once did. But let us not for a moment see this as a COIN strategy but rather for what it is in reality and that is genocide or at least mass murder on a massive scale committed until there are no civilians left or the survivors collapse in abject surrender. Any person in a uniform who is prepared to personally get involved in such atrocities does not deserve to be called a soldier. Now in order to defeat Boko Haram which civilians must the Nigerian army massacre? Targetting is important as the Nigerian army has much experience in killing civilians in both Sierra Leone and Liberia and further back during the Biafra war.

Bill M.

Tue, 06/24/2014 - 4:36am

In reply to by Mark Adams

Mark,

Who are we to tell a nation not to use effective tactics if they're fighting an insurgency that threatens their existence? While I share your sympathy for innocent civilians being killed, perhaps by the thousands, I disagree with our half hearted approach to dealing with insurgents. The LTTE was a brutal organization, even to other Tamils. They were hardly a band of freedom fighters fighting for high principles. There were other Tamil separatist groups, but they were suppressed or eliminated by the LTTE, which was just as much a thug organization as a paramilitary force.

The war waged for decades and was retarding Sri Lanka's potential for considerable economic development and growth. Furthermore the Singhalese had a right to expect that their government would pursue the necessary measures to stop the prolonged suffering by winning. Half footing in a counterinsurgency may seem humane, but over time this approach almost always results in years of suffering without a decisive close to the conflict.

To bring WWII to an end we deliberately killed a hell of lot more civilians than the Sri Lankans did. Warring parties do what they must do to prevail. Sri Lanka faced a significant threat, and when they stopped listening to the West they were able to end the conflict by pursuing tactics that work. They weren't humane, but relative to another decade of fighting maybe they were?

While the Sri Lankans were perhaps wise to discard the West for examples of effective COIN strategy, they need to listen to the West now to facilitate a successful reconciliation, otherwise they'll lose a hard won peace.

Mark Adams

Mon, 06/23/2014 - 6:50pm

In reply to by Bill C.

What one learns from the tactics used by the Sri Lankan military in 2009 - where civilians were killed without restraint - is that it can't be duplicated by any 'western' country in any theatre of war... ever! At a different level I guess one could study how to prevent any country from engaging in these tactics ever again.

The following article, just published in "New York Times Magazine," seems to provide an good overview of our African operations and the overall concept within which we are working.

The title of the article is: "Can General Linder's Special Operations Forces Stop the Next Terrorist Threat?"

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/15/magazine/can-general-linders-special-…

It is so interesting and comprehensive, it may even need its own thread.

Question: Do "Sri Lankan tactics" fit in here someplace?

Mark Adams

Mon, 06/23/2014 - 6:36pm

In reply to by Rick

I grant it that the Sri Lankans were smart enough understand what needed to be prepared for diplomatically and economically before adopting a war strategy that included the unrestricted killing of Tamil civilians in tens of thousands. Again I see no parallel with BH in Nigeria.

Rick

Mon, 06/23/2014 - 1:05pm

In reply to by Mark Adams

A badly presented piece. Although not a parallel, there is a lesson: under President Rajapaksa, in addition to appointing a very competent secretary of defense, did institute a policy of accepting assistance in any form and quantity from any country that would provide it, whether the U.S., China, or India, regardless of competing politics.

However, key to the Sri Lankan government's success in 2009 was brokering through India, a critical diplomatic coup that for the first time prevented Norway and the EU from imposing a cease-fire that, as in the past, would allow the LTTE to regroup and rearm.

Mark Adams

Mon, 06/23/2014 - 6:32pm

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill, in post colonial Africa the lesson has been learned about the danger of having a too powerful military as that inevitably leads to a coup... especially in the case of Nigeria as their history shows. In the case of Sri Lanka obtaining money and support from China was to cushion the effect of criticism or worse when they targeted the Tamil civilians/non-combatants directly. Once received they went ahead and 10s of thousands of civilians were killed. Not sure any of this has a parallel with Nigeria though.

Bill M.

Mon, 06/23/2014 - 5:24am

In reply to by Mark Adams

Different yes, but some basics can cross pollenate. For example, the Nigerians can learn the importance of investing sufficiently in their military to ensure they can implement the strategy. Second they can see what tactics actually work, like focusing on taking and controlling land instead of excessive focus on targeted killings. This approach is resource intensive, but I suspect at this point it must be done.

As you stated aspects of these conflicts differ considerably, so for Nigeria it is important that they manage their narrative and actions in a way that communicates this is a war again BH, not a civil war against Muslims. They should also start thinking about what the end looks like now, and how they'll reconcile with the rebels and address real political concerns in the Muslim areas to sustain victory once it is achieved.

I suspect this will be a long struggle, so in my opinion the key aspect is ensuring the military is properly resourced to sustain the fight until the end. In Sri Lanka the military frequently came within weeks of delivering a decisive blow against the LTTE and then the rainy season hit and/or they ran out of resources and they gave the land they controlled. Once China gave them around a billion dollars in aid they were able to sustain the fight. The basics in war and warfare still matter.

Mark Adams

Sun, 06/22/2014 - 9:38pm

What am I missing here? Can't for the life of me see the parallels between the Sri Lankan and Nigerian situations.