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Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF)

Nigeria’s neighbors have worked through regional organizations including the African Union (AU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC). The LCBC created the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) in 1998, and it its mandate was since expanded to include terrorism as an area of focus. Nigeria and its neighbors have talked about creating such a force since the early days of the group’s insurgency, back in 2009.

In February 2015 the African Union authorized the mobilization of a multinational force drawn from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria to tackle Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria and northern Cameroon. Prior to this, a loosely-arranged multinational military collaboration between Nigeria, Cameroon and Niger had served to somewhat disrupt the activities of the group. But the greatest weakness of current multinational responses has been a lack of mutual confidence between the participant nations.

A key part of United States strategy in the area is providing support to the Multinational Joint Task Force, which includes soldiers from Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Nigeria, and Benin. The US provided advisors, intelligence, training, logistical support, and equipment. As well, to those people who have been victimized by Boko Haram, providing more than $195 million in humanitarian assistance.

Nigeria agreed with Niger, Cameroon, Chad and Benin to send a 8,700-strong regional “Multinational Joint Task Force” (MNJTF) to fight Boko Haram which had killed thousands in northeastern Nigeria and increasingly threatened neighboring countries. For months, Nigerian authorities had opposed any foreign troops to help combat Boko Haram on Nigerian territory. Not only is there a lack of military coordination and mutual confidence among the nations, but at times some nations also had shown “unhappiness” with the actions of others - including accusations of one nation having links with the enemy - all of which led to failure to achieve optimal military capability.

An example of the discord prior to the formation of the MNJTF can be seen in January of 2015, when Chad, acting unilaterally, sent troops into Nigeria. Another example is when Niger labeled Nigerian troops “cowards,” to which Nigeria responded by calling Niger’s troops “serial looters.” The formation of the MNJTF by the African Union was, besides coordinating actions, supposed to prevent such acrimonious words, but it appeared that to at least some degree the discord continues.

Nigeria’s military on February 3, 2015 said the country’s sovereignty was not compromised despite the presence of Chadian ground troops in the northeast to fight Boko Haram. Chadian soldiers had last week carried out air and ground assault against insurgents at the Borno town of Malam Fatori. The Defence headquarters had defended the attack, saying the town was under the area covered by the recently constituted Multinational Joint Task Force, which Chadian troops were part of. However, the troops again crossed the border from northern Cameroon to the Nigerian town of Gamboru on Tuesday after three days of bombardment of Boko Haram positions, as the regional fight-back against the Islamists continue. In June 2015 President Muhammadu Buhari directed the immediate release of $21 million (N4.2 billion) to the Multinational Joint Task Force, MNJTF. The money is to be released within the next one week to enable the MNJTF prosecute the war against Boko Haram effectively. Nigeria made a pledge of $100 million as part of funds needed by the MNJTF.

On 30 July 2015 Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari appointed an army general to lead a coalition of West African counterterrorism troops, a step forward for a fast-forming international effort against the Islamist militant group Boko Haram. Maj. Gen. Iliya Abbah will lead the Multinational Joint Task Force. The general previously served as a commander pursuing kidnappers and thieves in Nigeria’s oil-rich south. The appointment offered further evidence of how quickly a West African army was coming together against Boko Haram.

Collaboration across borders had long been seen as key to ending the Boko Haram insurgency, which started in Nigeria but has since spread through the country’s porous borders into neighboring Niger, Chad and Cameroon. Nigerian and Cameroonian military officials said the Multinational Joint Task Force composed of troops from Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Benin is actively fighting Boko Haram and achieving some success. Boko Haram, however, still carried out attacks in Nigeria and its neighbors, leading some experts to question whether regional cooperation was as deep as it should be.

But to some the “Multinational Joint Task Force” appeared largely out of sync with what would have been needed to eliminate the threat posed by Boko Haram. What would have been required, it seems, is a rather robust force such as the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which has been combatting al-Shabaab Islamists since 2007. The format of the AU Regional Cooperation Initiative for the elimination of the Lord’s Resistance Army (RCI-LRA), which was established in 2011, could also have been envisaged. Another model could have been the initial configuration of the African-led international support mission to Mali (AFISMA), in which the national army was intended to spearhead operations, with support from the African force.

Boko Haram carried out probably its most vicious attacks in January 2016 around Baga, a fishing settlement in Borno state, northeast Nigeria, killing at least 2,000 people and sacking the military base of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF). In July 2016 the Nigerian Army reopened the Maiduguri-Dikwa-Gamboru road three years after it was closed as a result of the Boko Haram insurgency. In 2013, at the peak of Boko Haram activities in Borno, the road was closed to motorists. Gov. Kashim Shettima of Borno State, accompanied by the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, a Lt.-Gen., flagged off the reopening of the road on 08 July 2016.

The governor, in his remark, commended the military for containing the insurgency within the short period, which facilitated the reopening of the road. “Two years ago, Borno was in a bad state and about a year and half ago, the state almost fell completely in the hands of the insurgents. “Today, the story is different and anyone who wants to be fair to the Nigerian Army and General Buratai must juxtapose these scenarios before drawing conclusion. “With the reopening of this road which is the life wire of the state, there will be a quantum leap in the economy of the state," he said.

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Page last modified: 21-07-2016 18:45:55 ZULU