The end of Boko Haram draws near

The ring appears to be closing on Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria.  All reports indicate that most of the Islamic terror group, loyal to ISIS, has finally been chased into the deep jungle of the Sambisa forest preserve by the Nigerian army offensive, launched last February by President Goodluck Jonathan.  But the Sambisa is about as large as West Virginia and as trackless as the Congo.

Huge numbers of young women and girls are being rescued from the Sambisa encampments as the army pursues the fleeing enemy deeper into the forest.  The stories emerging from the wretched survivors are reminiscent of atrocities from the Third Reich.  Some children were so traumatized that they had forgotten their own names and languages and were answering aid workers in broken Arabic. 

In sum, Boko Haram appears to have been running a vast network of female slavery, selling girls as young as nine into marriage “in the marketplace,” as one terrorist leader boasted.  Perhaps given its absence of cash and oil resources, Boko Haram grabbed the only thing of value it could use to fund its terror-operations: little girls.

Liberation by the Nigerian army is coming in fits and starts, but it seems always fraught with death, this being Nigeria.  In one camp, with the Nigerian army on the outskirts, the Boko Haram fighters began stoning to death any women and girls who refused to go farther back into the forest with them.  And as the Nigerian army bounded into the camp, some of its trucks ran over a patch of underbrush, killing at least ten women cowering underneath.

The children appeared severely malnourished.  Some of the children were "just little skeletal bodies with flaps of skin that make them look like old people," Associated Press reporter Michelle Faul told the BBC.  The rescued were taken to the town of Yola, where they are being cared for within the limits of Nigeria’s capacities.  Some had to march there themselves, carrying hungry babies on their backs, when the army trucks were filled up to capacity with survivors.  The victims had been fed at most one meal of “ground dry maize in the afternoons” every day by the terrorists.

The 200-odd Chibok village schoolgirls, kidnapped last year on April 14 and made famous by a Western Twitter campaign, don’t appear to be among the rescued.  No one knows where these children are, or if they are indeed still alive, deep in the forest.

Assistance from the USA has been parsimonious.  Apparently, one Predator drone was deployed to conduct surveillance overflights, and satellite images were shared with Nigeria’s government, according to the Los Angeles Times.  “Images from US surveillance drones and satellites [from last year] has shown suspected bands of Boko Haram militants setting up temporary camps and moving through isolated villages and along dirt tracks in northeastern Nigeria,” the Times quoted U.S. officials as saying. 

But the White House has always barred American troops from taking an active role in the search for Boko Haram and its innocent captives, and Nigeria alone could never get its act together in time to utilize the intelligence.  Another year went by. 

Imagine what might have been accomplished a year ago had the U.S. and its allies been more heavily engaged in the search-and-destroy campaign in the Sambisa forest, with ground troops, helicopters, and ten drones, say, instead of one.  The Obama administration’s reflexive disdain for the use of American ground troops has likely prolonged indescribable suffering for thousands of young women and girls.

Christopher S. Carson holds a master’s in national security studies from Georgetown University and practices law in Wisconsin.

The ring appears to be closing on Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria.  All reports indicate that most of the Islamic terror group, loyal to ISIS, has finally been chased into the deep jungle of the Sambisa forest preserve by the Nigerian army offensive, launched last February by President Goodluck Jonathan.  But the Sambisa is about as large as West Virginia and as trackless as the Congo.

Huge numbers of young women and girls are being rescued from the Sambisa encampments as the army pursues the fleeing enemy deeper into the forest.  The stories emerging from the wretched survivors are reminiscent of atrocities from the Third Reich.  Some children were so traumatized that they had forgotten their own names and languages and were answering aid workers in broken Arabic. 

In sum, Boko Haram appears to have been running a vast network of female slavery, selling girls as young as nine into marriage “in the marketplace,” as one terrorist leader boasted.  Perhaps given its absence of cash and oil resources, Boko Haram grabbed the only thing of value it could use to fund its terror-operations: little girls.

Liberation by the Nigerian army is coming in fits and starts, but it seems always fraught with death, this being Nigeria.  In one camp, with the Nigerian army on the outskirts, the Boko Haram fighters began stoning to death any women and girls who refused to go farther back into the forest with them.  And as the Nigerian army bounded into the camp, some of its trucks ran over a patch of underbrush, killing at least ten women cowering underneath.

The children appeared severely malnourished.  Some of the children were "just little skeletal bodies with flaps of skin that make them look like old people," Associated Press reporter Michelle Faul told the BBC.  The rescued were taken to the town of Yola, where they are being cared for within the limits of Nigeria’s capacities.  Some had to march there themselves, carrying hungry babies on their backs, when the army trucks were filled up to capacity with survivors.  The victims had been fed at most one meal of “ground dry maize in the afternoons” every day by the terrorists.

The 200-odd Chibok village schoolgirls, kidnapped last year on April 14 and made famous by a Western Twitter campaign, don’t appear to be among the rescued.  No one knows where these children are, or if they are indeed still alive, deep in the forest.

Assistance from the USA has been parsimonious.  Apparently, one Predator drone was deployed to conduct surveillance overflights, and satellite images were shared with Nigeria’s government, according to the Los Angeles Times.  “Images from US surveillance drones and satellites [from last year] has shown suspected bands of Boko Haram militants setting up temporary camps and moving through isolated villages and along dirt tracks in northeastern Nigeria,” the Times quoted U.S. officials as saying. 

But the White House has always barred American troops from taking an active role in the search for Boko Haram and its innocent captives, and Nigeria alone could never get its act together in time to utilize the intelligence.  Another year went by. 

Imagine what might have been accomplished a year ago had the U.S. and its allies been more heavily engaged in the search-and-destroy campaign in the Sambisa forest, with ground troops, helicopters, and ten drones, say, instead of one.  The Obama administration’s reflexive disdain for the use of American ground troops has likely prolonged indescribable suffering for thousands of young women and girls.

Christopher S. Carson holds a master’s in national security studies from Georgetown University and practices law in Wisconsin.