Like the Mongols, Boko Haram too can be defeated 

By (Blogger) Abdulkareem Haruna
A graphic impression of the rise & spread
Of the Mongols Invasionary Empire 

I was doing a light research on how nations in history had mobilised their formidable armies to defeat their common deadly force enemy like the Boko Haram and I stumbled on the story of the Mongol warriors. 

My research was born out of the recent pronouncement by Nigeria's Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General #TukurBuratai that "Boko Haram days are over", which generated mixed reactions from usually cynical Nigerians.
General TY Buratai

So my research brought me to interface with the fascinating story of the Mongols.

Though theirs was a kind of a pre-neolithic era of warfare when battles were fought on foot, horses, chariots using spears, bows & arrows as well as  swords as the main weaponry, their story still relate with ours. 

Author of the article, the legendary UK born historian, #StephenTempest, was kind of answering a rather hypothetical question that appeared on Quora that "What Tactics Would An Army Use to Defeat an Invading Mongol Force?"

The Mongol at that pre-modern era were fierce invaders whose mastery of warfare was feared by many nations.
Genghis Khan, Mongol Leader
(Source: Wikipedia)

According to Wikipedia, "the Mongol Empire emerged from the unification of nomadic tribes in the Mongol homeland under the leadership of Genghis Khan, whom a council proclaimed ruler of all the Mongols in 1206. "The empire grew rapidly under his rule and that of his descendants, who sent invasions in every direction.

"The vast transcontinental empire connected the east with the west with an enforced Pax Mongolica, allowing the dissemination and exchange of trade, technologies, commodities, and ideologies across Eurasia". 

I also understand that due to their fiercely war tactics they have been able to form a large empire that controlled most parts of the present day East Asia. 

According to Tempest, "Mongols success in battle depended on several factors, which combined to make them an extremely effective force". 

"Still, they were not invincible, as the battle of Ain Jalut in 1260 proved".
It was said that the Mongol horse archers were tactically deadly in battle. Their horses allowed them to stay out of reach of the enemy, while their composite bows allowed them to rain down accurate fire. 

"When the enemy army was disorganized and broken up by the losses from the archery fire, the Mongol heavy cavalry would charge in with lance and sword to finish the job"
Artistic Impression of Mongol Warriors
(Internet sourced from Realm of History)

"The Mongols were, compared to most other armies in the time period, extremely well-organized and disciplined. For most commanders from other nations, it was an achievement simply to get all their men to agree to fight the same enemy. A Mongol general could rely on his troops to carry out complex plans involving encirclements, flanking maneuvers, and feigned retreats.

On the strategic level, the Mongols were extremely mobile. Soldiers had three or four horses each, allowing them to keep up a sustained movement rate far faster than an army traveling on foot, or even with a limited number of horses, could achieve. The Mongols were also used to living off the land, so they were not tied to a slow-moving supply train.

The story of the Mongol warriors and their escapade strikes the imagination of Kareem's Pick Blog.  
Coming back home and fast forwarding from the 13th century to present day Nigeria, one would say Boko Haram shares some of the features with the Mongols.

Of course Mongols was an empire with unimaginable penchant for forceful conquest of territory, Boko Haram too was once a dreaded force that seized about 26 local government area spread across Borno Adamawa and Yobe states of Nigeria, while
A map of areas formerly under the control of
Boko Haram in northern Nigeria

maintaining some hostile control in the border areas of Chad, Niger and Cameroon republics. Their bursted mission was to take control of the entire northern flank of Nigeria, establish a crazy caliphate and use the international trade routes that links the region to establish business contact through the central African republic up to Europe. 

Just like the truncated move by Boko Haram to conquer most part of northern Nigeria, the Mongol forces led by Genghis Khan and his sons and grand sons briefly ruled most of present-day Russia, China, Korea Southeast Asia, Persia, India, the middle East, and Eastern Europe. 

Like the Mongol warriors, Boko Haram commanders too could easily order a willing army of suicidal foot soldiers to carry out  the most deadly missions and attacks regardless of how many of them that would be guaranteed to return alive. 
Nigeria troops

Boko Haram too were reported to have used tactics of feigned retreats to cause serious damage on Nigeria troops. It was so reported in Damboa, Damasak, Bama etc where such tactics caused the Nigeria forces not only it's gallant men and officers but an unquantifiable large number of munitions. 

Boko Haram also prefer to live off the land and far into the hinterland from where they could plot dangerous hostility on both vulnerable and even highly fortified communities. 

That's not all, I also learnt that the Mongols were willing to exploit the abilities of their subject races. From the Chinese, they recruited large numbers of mechanics and skilled engineers, who allowed them to make catapults and other siege engines to capture fortified cities.

Boko Haram too had exploited the expertise of their coerced or conscripted foot soldiers as well  members who joined willingly to develop their belligerent strategies, engaging in fabrication and improvisation of weaponry. 

A classical case in reference was in the story that was told of how Boko Haram were able to fabricate a firing pins on a war tank they seized from the military. It is standard that a war tank cannot fire a single bullet without its firing pin, so most of the tanks stolen by the Boko Haram were without those important components.
A display of arms recovered
from Boko Haram by Nigeria
Soldiers in Lake Chad

And also it takes large drums of fuelling for such mega war tanks to function because the engine must be running while it is firing. But Boko Haram conscripted engineers were able to fabricate a firing pin using a small generator - like that of a grinding machine - whose rotor was belted to the wheel of a motorcycle mounted on a fabricated stand that fixed right on the spot where the missing firing pin use to be. It does not need the tank running it's engine to fire. The small fuel on generator would effectively assist the tank to fire bullets even better and faster than the conventional tank. With such improvised tank Boko Haram were able to match through towns and villages sending both civilians and soldiers fleeing. 

Thank God the military has been able to take over those deadly machines. 

The insurgents also utilised the expertise of some disgruntled retired or dismissed security personnel in their midst, who had once served in the ordnance department of their former force,  to develop explosives that have become their most feared weaponry in the ongoing asymmetric warfare.

Within the Boko Haram  are mechanics, electric engineers, doctors and nurses, drivers and even tyre menders etc. All of them function in a composite manner to make Boko Haram a feared force of reckon. 

But despite all the feared exploits of the Mongols, despite the large expanse of the conquest that formed their defunct large empire, the Mongols were eventually defeated.  

In 1260 the ferocious Mongols were defeated by Egyptian Mamluks in the battles of Ain Jalut and Homs. 
Now one would ask: What strategy did the Egyptians, the Russians and the Chinese use to defeat the army of one of the world's  most powerful empire? 

History has shown that it took no rocket science to defeat the giant Mongol army of invasion. 
Apart from the years of careful study of their military tactics and strategies, the Egyptians, Chinese and the Russians took time to explore the secret weaknesses of the Mongols. 

Kareem's Pick Blog has been able to compare the strategies reeled out by Stephen Tempest which he said were used to defeat the Mongol warriors and compare them with what the Nigeria military is doing presently. 

Tempest said to defeat the Mongols the adversaries first deployed the basic approach which was "to have wagons full of supplies and spare arrows at the center of my army or at the rear if my flanks are protected"

He explained that "that's how Richard the Lionheart defeated Saladin at Arsuf. 

"With my supplies with me, I can outlast the Mongols. This is expensive—few medieval kingdoms could afford such a measure, as opposed to just living off the land—but it's the best strategy", said Tempest. 

Unfortunately, until 2015, the Nigeria troops suffered massive defeat largely due to the fact that they were outgunned by the Boko Haram. In 2014, the governor of Borno state, Kashim Shettima belt the cat to announce that Boko Haram was better armed and better motivated than own troops. He was almost crucified for that but at the end of the day the same government approved $2 billion for purchase of arms  which, sadly, was diverted to private pockets as bribe money for politicians seeking to help the then government win another election.
President Muhammadu Buhari
Whose gov't the $2 billion arms
Deal scandal was exposed

Another strategy used to defeat the Mongols was by forcing them to attack their adversaries head-on. 

"The Mamluks won (over Mongols) at Ain Jalut through trickery: They sent a small force to bait the Mongols into attacking them, while the rest of their army lurked in the nearby hills ready to swoop out once the enemy was committed to battle).

We have heard of many ambush attacks by the Nigeria army and how such operation yielded positive result in terms of casualties on the side of the Boko Haram. But it could be further explored for better results. 

"An alternative approach, which is a classic strategy in 19th-century warfare, is to identify some target which the enemy cannot afford to lose, and move to attack it". 

"They are therefore forced to attack you—at a time and place of your choosing—or else stand by and watch you capture or destroy your objective", said Tempest.

This strategy is tricky against a nomadic enemy like the Mongols, but they still had cities under their control. A powerful, slow moving army carrying its supplies with it could move into their territory and burn their cities, challenging the Khan to come out and fight it. 

Here in Nigeria we have recently seen the Nigerian troops now taking the battle to the once formidable fortress of the Boko Haram, like the Sambisa and Alagarno as well as the ongoing Operation Ruwan Wuta in the Islands of Lake Chad. The troops local and multinational are now raiding the Lake Chad base of the Boko Haram which did not further plunge the ranks of the Boko Haram in disarray but also led to almost killing of one of their most deadly commanders, Mamman Nur who is now believed to have been fatally injured. His combatant wife was reported killed though. 

This dry season is deemed the best time to defeat Boko Haram because the military can leverage on the unfettered access to areas that are usually mashy. 

The Chinese and Russians used such strategy on the Mongols by attacking in high summer, during which they set fire to the grasslands on which their horse herds depended. This strategy, though, could also be seen as ruthless. 

"Of course, such a measure will hurt the Mongols' subject people too, who might be your own citizens—so this strategy is a ruthless and cruel one", said Tempest. 

Still, the Boko Haram like the Mongols employed cruelty deliberately as a strategy of war, trusting that their opponents (government forces) would be more ruthless than themselves.
Long term strategy were also employed by the Russians in defeating the Mingols.  

"Their weapon was small fortress; a defended military post would be established in Mongol territory, with a secure supply route back to the heartland (preferably by sea or river, so the Mongols couldn't cut it). Of course the Mongols could lay siege to the fortress, but that would mean concentrating their army together in one place where your superior forces could attack and defeat them".

The Nigeria military has severally said they have established blocking posts on major supply routes of the Boko Haram and via that blockage several tonnes of food, medical supplies, fuel and even arms of the insurgents have been intercepted, which further weaken the enemy force. 

"If they didn't attack, then you would attack them. Beat them at their own game—send out raiding parties of light cavalry to ravage, pillage, and burn the Mongol lands and, most importantly, kill their horses", said Tempest. 

The above strategem has been used largely by the Nigeria army and the air force especially in the last two years, during which hundreds of raids were carried out on identified Boko Haram camps and bomb making factories, Their armories vehicles, motorcycles, and bicycles were all destroyed. 

"Eventually, the Mongols would get tired of their horses being killed and retreat further back into the steppes. At which point, you would build another ostrog deeper into the steppes and repeat the process, while the previous fortress became the core of a new city". 

Just like a script played out, the Boko Haram's depleted forces, tired of being bombarded and attacked in their strongholds during which they  lost recorded large quantum of vehicles, war trucks and munitions, decided to flee to the core of the Lake Chad island that are difficult to traverse during the wet season. But the military took its time and resume a pursuing bombarment and raid of their new enclaves in the Islands and fringes of Sambisa. 

Women and children recently rescued 
From Boko Haram abductors the
More forward operational base were established as the government troops gain more control of liberated territories which further prevent the insurgents from coming back to reclaim the areas.

As a result of this, hundreds of Boko Haram fighters have voluntarily surrendered to government forces in both Nigeria and Cameroon where they are currently being profiled and reoriented under the amnesty programmes of the governments. 
Above all,  the best strategy, as judged by Kareem's Pick Blog that was employed by the Russians, Chinese and the Egyptians in defeating the Mongols was the use of  "effective scouting and reconnaissance". 

"If the Mongols are ravaging the countryside, the peasants of your own nation should be willing to help provide information on their locations and numbers. 

"Encourage them, listen to them, and set up a system to feed this information into your headquarters. 
"Station riders with fast horses who know the countryside well to bring you news of where the Mongols are at all times". 

This is where citizens participation comes in. The Nigeria military has severally echoed and re-echoed that the military alone cannot deal with the complexity of an asymmetrical warfare like the Boko Haram insurgency. The citizens too must be fully involved - not only in the belligerent aspect like what the Civilian-JTF (the Civil volunteer Vigilante) is doing - but in the area of providing credible information to troops and authorities in the military and sister security agencies. 

Without the relevant information provided to troops, ending the war would be as good as mirage. 
The government and the security forces must further exploit the civil-military relationship so that mutual information can be shared. 

But the military must also empower the grassroot informants with enablements that could assist in speedy delivery of information. And the personnel in various military formations across the northeast Nigeria must be trained with better skills of processing these information for swift action to be taken. 

We have heard several cases where volunteers of information about Boko Haram lament on how the piece of intelligence they shared with soldiers were ignored until the Boko Haram eventually attacked. 

As the federal government move to fund the equipping of the armed forces with $1 billion so as to enable them deal with the Boko Haram menace once and for all, the need for financing grassroot intelligence gathering must be factored in. 

Massive investment in local information gathering and sharing must be key. 

Let there be a working reward system for everyone that contributes one way or the other to help government succeed in the counterinsurgency drive. 

The soldiers must be well and better remunerated for all their services. 
If all said are done why won't the Nigeria military say the days of the Boko Haram are numbered?

The Chief of army staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, who is a reputable historian may have more insights on the 13th century exploits of the Mongols who feat is still rated as the most formidable in history of mankind given the circumstances and resources at their disposal at that Neolithic era. And he is equally in the know of how they were later reduced to rubbles of history.

It is the opinion of Kareem's Pick Blog that no insurgency or civil insurrection is bigger than a government's military as long as the necessary wherewithal are provided. And given the resources government is willing to invest in the military, who would doubt the days of #BokoHaram being numbered?

Just like the Mongol warriors, their defeat too would be recorded in our history. 


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