Boko Haram: Whose Islamic State?
Boko Haram may be reaching its bitter end as the Nigerian military, with the support of Niger, Cameroon, and Chad, plans a massive ground invasion of the insurgents’ long-controlled safe zone, the Sambisa Forest. The regional Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) has the upper hand in this clash, as Boko Haram is running out of steam, having been subjected to constant aerial bombardment since February. Outgoing Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has refused the offer of the United Nations to send troops, expressing confidence in the MNJTF’s ability to rout Boko Haram before the May 29 handover to the new president. This is the right decision, as any direct involvement of the United States and its European allies, especially France, would only play into the hands of the insurgents and help broaden the international appeal of Boko Haram to other jihadist groups. However, the US can aid the counterterrorism efforts of the MNJTF by contributing to the pool of UN-sourced special funds for the task force and providing enhanced counterterrorism training, as well as intelligence and communication support, to the Nigerian forces and their partners. However, Boko Haram remains deadly as long as sharia is the precondition for political and economic gains to the Muslim north. The Boko Haram insurgency, therefore, is better understood within the dichotomous discourse of exclusion/inclusion and access/non-access to power. In this case, Boko Haram’s self-declared goal of establishing a sharia state offers a partial truth.