I just read through the “Digital Briefing on U.S. Efforts to Combat Terrorism in Africa during COVID” by Major General Anderson of U.S Special Operations Command Africa. The depth of his thoughts is as probing as it is fecund. The part below is so strategically profound and instructive to those who think of actions and consequences. The depth of his thoughts makes one ashamed of Nigeria’s peppersoup Generals. Read below :
“You can’t just solve with one tool, and that tool means you use nongovernment organizations, you use aid, development, economic development – all come together to get after this problem, and it means that you harness the wisdom of crowds, the wisdom of what multiple people and multiple organizations bring, because no one group, no one nation is going to have the solution to this very difficult problem. And then you think deeper: what are the third and fourth order effects? What is it that comes? Because if I’m only solving in the first order, I’m probably not solving that problem where it needs to be attacked. So you have to think in third and fourth order effects, and how do we do that, and then use innovation to go after these things. And innovation doesn’t mean technology; it means looking at what are the creative ways to come together to solve these problems. And sometimes it may be technology, sometimes it may be investment, other times it’s leveraging those resources that you have available in order to take these problems on and to solve them.”
On terrorism in Nigeria, his response is more important for what he said and what is implied by his statements. What are the Chinese doing fishing in our territorial waters? What happened to the Eastern and Western Naval Command? Nigeria is in trouble on many fronts. Read below his thoughts.
“When it comes to Nigeria in general, Nigeria, obviously, is a critical nation to West Africa. It is huge just in its economy, in its population, and just its influence in the region. It is a critical nation and we realize that Nigeria is a lynchpin. For that to have an effect against the VEOs and to have an effect against these stressors, it really takes the Government of Nigeria to lead that effort and to build that energy to coalesce around. So no nation can come in and fix that problem for Nigeria. We can assist with that – and it’s the United States can assist, the United Kingdom, other countries can come in, many countries can come and assist with that partnership – but ultimately it takes leadership from Nigeria in order for us to focus our efforts. We need to understand where Nigeria wants to focus those efforts so we can partner appropriately to have the best effect.
We have partnered with great effect with Nigeria in counterterrorism in the past. We’ve had good engagements with their air force in particular and providing C-208 capability, which is a light, fixed-wing ISR [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] platform, very capable, and we’ve had good engagement. We’ve had good engagements with their air force in integrating their air force with their ground forces in order to make their air force more effective. Nigeria is a large country, it’s got a lot of territory to cover, and so it’s critical that they have that air component and that air engagement. So we have had positive engagements there.
Recently, the Nigerian coast guard went out and rescued some Chinese fishermen that were adrift out off their coast. That was a combination of engagement from the U.S., where the U.S. had engaged with their maritime forces and helped build their maritime awareness along their coast. And that was in partnership with their neighbors in Togo and Benin as well, who helped with that whole operation to understand the intelligence that led them to where these fishermen were, but then it was the unit that went out and did that was a Nigerian special operations unit that our Navy SEALs had trained a few years previously.
So sometimes it’s not the immediate effect, it’s the effect that happens two or three years later as you combine these engagements that have a greater effect later on. I know that’s just one small example and it’s not directly against terrorism, but being able to engage in that maritime domain and to be able to understand what’s going on out there is critical, and that has been an engagement the United States has had over several years with Nigeria and those other coastal states in both the naval and the special operations forces.
More directly to his point, we have engaged with Nigeria and continue to engage with them in intel sharing and in understanding what these violent extremists are doing, and that has been absolutely critical to their engagements up in the Borno State and into an emerging area of northwest Nigeria that we’re seeing al-Qaida starting to make some inroads in. So this intelligence sharing is absolutely vital and we stay fully engaged with the Government of Nigeria to provide them an understanding of what these terrorists are doing, what Boko Haram is doing, what ISIS-West Africa is doing, and how ISIS and al-Qaida are looking to expand further south into the littoral areas.”