General Sir Mike Jackson

What we can learn from the British Army’s help in the fight against Boko Haram

For two decades, violent, extremist organisations have had a devastating impact on the African continent. Attacks by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Boko Haram, and their splinter group Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) have displaced millions within and across national borders and decimated vital services,  education, healthcare, and businesses. Since 2009, Boko Haram have claimed more than 27,000 lives in Nigeria and Cameroon, and as the Nigerian presidential election in February approaches, the terrorist group has renewed its campaign of violence.

British military support for African states is therefore vital in tackling the scourge of violent extremist organisations. The British Army is actively engaged in operations across the globe, with deployments ranging from peacekeeping to providing humanitarian aid, from enforcing anti-terrorism measures to helping combat the international drugs trade.

In August 2018 the UK signed its first defence and security agreement with Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and largest economy. The UK is providing the Nigerian military with equipment to contend with improvised explosive devices, and training army units before they are deployed to the northeast of the country where Boko Haram and ISWAP operate. British military personnel have so far trained over 30,000 Nigerian troops to ensure that a corridor of terrorism does not open up through the Sahel and North Africa to the Middle East.

Nigeria has made significant progress in the fight against the insurgencies. It is worth remembering that shortly before President Muhammadu Buhari took office, Boko Haram had reached Nigeria’s capital city, bombing the United Nations building and attacking the headquarters of the State Security Service. At the end of 2014, which saw the brazen abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls, the extremist group occupied an area the size of Belgium in northeast Nigeria.

But within the first few months of Buhari’s presidency, Boko Haram were forced to retreat to remote forest regions and the mountains.

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