The battle against the Nigerian-based Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram is heating up. For a variety of reasons, Nigeria’s military has been unable to stop their advance, but when Boko Haram crossed the border into Cameroon they met stiffer resistance, and now Chad is preparing to move troops and equipment into northern Cameroon against the terrorist gang.
As CNN reports, Chad is taking the field right after a major Boko Haram attack on the villages of Mabass and Makxy in Cameroon, an assault that killed at least three people and resulted in the taking of at least 80 hostages, in accordance with Boko Haram’s odious practice of capturing and selling slaves. Chad’s forces, described as several thousand strong, began arriving in Cameroon shortly after the attack.
The Chadian government is taking Boko Haram’s threat seriously indeed. “We can’t remain indifferent to what is happening to our neighbors,” declared President Idriss Deby. “Cameroon is the entry and exit point for Chad economically.” Not only is Chad dependent upon Cameroon’s seaport city of Douala for commerce, but their oil comes largely from a platform off Cameroon’s coast, through a highly vulnerable pipeline. If Boko Haram were able to knock Cameroon over, Chad might very well follow, and their Islamist caliphate would swiftly become as formidable as the ISIS terror state they idolize.
Chad is the first country to move against Boko Haram without a direct provocation and, with good equipment plus experience at fighting jihadis in Mali, they stand a good chance of turning the tide. The Cameroonian military they are looking to reinforce is also a tougher competitor than the Nigerian units Boko Haram has so easily routed, when they bothered to show up for battle at all.
It is possible that one reason Boko Haram started raiding Cameroon, then launched serious attacks against a few of their military installations, is that they sense further provocations in Nigeria might bring a more energetic response from President Goodluck Jonathan. If they push any further into the Nigerian heartland, they may be taking territory the national government cannot afford to lose.
According to a report in the Nigerian Premium Times, the government of Nigeria claims to be unaware of Chadian President Deby ordering his forces into Cameroon, and is worried about border violations if Cameroon and Chad carry out their announced mission to recapture the Nigerian town of Baga and its Multi-National Joint Task Force military base from Boko Haram. “Apparently left in the dark, the Nigerian military seems confused over this development,” judges the Premium Times.
That might be an understatement, based on a Nigerian defense spokesman allowing that Chad and Cameroon have legitimate business in Baga, as they are part of the Multi-National Joint Task Force, but “even with that being the case, there cannot be solo operations in that area that will ignore the existing Nigerian arrangement for that area.” His statement disregards the fact that Boko Haram is already ignoring the existing Nigerian arrangement for that area, to the great sorrow of every Nigerian who crosses their path.
The Premium Times quotes several regional security experts noting that it belies a certain distrust of the Nigerian government and military if Cameroon and Chad are planning to invade Nigeria without bringing its government into the loop. For years there have been rumors of Nigerian government officials and soldiers conspiring with Boko Haram, and there are similar suspicions about Chad, leading right up to allegations that President Deby himself had a comfortable arrangement with the “caliphate,” providing weapons and safe havens.
If the Chadians are about to launch a major offensive against Boko Haram, any such understanding has presumably gone sour. The really sinister conspiracy theories hold that for all their Islamist hegemonic pretensions, Boko Haram is essentially a disguised Chadian wrecking crew, out to level northern Nigeria and pave the way for Chad to gobble up the territory.
An earlier reported victory by Cameroon claimed 143 Boko Haram soldiers were killed, with the loss of only one Cameroonian officer. Now AFP reports a Cameroonian counter-attack has freed about two dozen of the eighty hostages taken by Boko Haram on Sunday, driving the terrorist forces back into Nigeria with their remaining captives.