(This is an excerpt from The Legend of Buratai: Tukur,Army and Fate. Volume II)
In war the only sure defense is offensive, and the efficiency of the offense depends on the war-like souls of those conducting it.
General George S. Patton Jr. in War as I Knew it
One thing that has become a major decisive factor in the defeat of Boko Haram insurgency is what I called the Super Camp strategy which the Nigerian Army conceptualized and implemented in 2019. Super Camp is all about creating a means or platform to serve as launching pad for mobile offensive operations in containing and denying the Boko Haram insurgents freedom of action in identified areas across the theatre. It is an audacious plan because it is simple but need to be boldly executed. One of the characteristics of a good commander or General is the ability to develop bold, inventive plans that produce decisive results. Commanders demonstrate audacity by violently applying combat power. They understand when and where to take risks and do not hesitate as they execute their plan. Commanders dispel uncertainty through action; they compensate for lack of information by seizing the initiative and pressing the fight. Audacity inspires soldiers to overcome adversity and danger.
Super Camp is necessary in combating insurgents because of its unique ability to provide the Army with effective channel for decisive operations. Decisive offensive operations are attacks that conclusively determine the outcome of major operations, battles, and engagements. At the operational level, decisive operations achieve the goals of each phase of a campaign. Ground operations within campaigns may include several phases. Within each phase is a decisive operation. Its results substantially affect the course of the campaign. At the tactical level, decisive battles or engagements achieve the purpose of the higher headquarters mission. Commanders win decisive operations through close combat that physically destroys the enemy; overcomes his will to resist; or seizes, occupies, and retains terrain. Super camps would further boost force protection of troops while on camps, as well as enable them to project force through long distance patrols and ambushes to dominate their areas of operation (Fisher,2014).
Super Camp is important and timely because the Army needs to be on the offensive if we are to silence the insurgents and overwhelm them. This is because the offense is the decisive form of war because of its unique ability to destroy the enemy especially the remnants of the insurgents that are lurking around in some parts of northern Borno.
Super Camp usually goes hand in hand with a tactical road march. In fact Super Camp is always as a result of tactical road march because when we have a rapid relocation of troops from disadvantageous locations to an area of strength so that they concentrate and conserve resources and power to effectively deal with the enemy, it is then that we can say we have a Super Camp. A tactical road march is a rapid movement used to relocate units within an area of operations to prepare for combat operations. Tactical road marches occur when a force must maintain security or when movements occur within range of enemy influence. Commanders may still execute tactical road marches in low-threat.
Super Camp came about because apart from intelligence gathering, it is the only sure path to seizing, retaining and exploiting the initiative to decisively defeat the insurgents. Although many people didn’t understand the concept and its modus operandi, the results that it’s yielding in the theater is enough to convince everyone that it is a step taken in the right direction. It has completely shifted the dynamics of the fight against insurgency by its unique ability to confound the insurgents. They no longer have the initiative and the availability of soft targets or weak links in our formations for them to exploit is no longer there. Our troops are concentrated in the Super Camps and this Super Camps are impenetrable to the insurgents. But what is giving the insurgents sleepless nights is that the troops are not just concentrated in the Super Camps but continuous, offensive attacks like raids and ambush are carried out against the insurgents nonstop. What I really wanted is for our troops to launch a simultaneous attack on the insurgents in such manner that they will be thrown off balance. This is exactly what has been happening. The insurgents are overwhelmed because all their major defenses have been disrupted. This is why many of them are being eliminated while some are surrendering to us. In a nutshell the Super Camp strategy of offensive attack through the concentration of forces was conceived to achieve the following results:
- Disrupting enemy coherence.
- Securing or seizing terrain.
- Denying the enemy resources.
- Fixing the enemy.
- Gaining information.
The troops of the Nigerian Army had no doubt routed and defeated the insurgents but like a vicious snake passing through death throes, the insurgents are still conducting hit and run attacks. This is why the Army can no longer afford to be on defensive and wait for the enemy. We must seize the initiative and be on the offensive. The most important thing to do at this stage is attack and attack and attacks the enemy and his formations. According Fisher (2014) and attack is an offensive operation that destroys or defeats enemy forces, seizes and secures terrain, or both. The Super Camp offensive attacks operation was planned to help the Army achieve the following objectives:
- Spoil the plan of the enemy
- Counter attack the enemy
- Raid the hideouts of the enemy
- Ambush the enemy in places they never anticipated
- Deceive the enemy, and lastly
- Demonstrate strength and power over the enemy
Prior to the launch of Super Camp, our troops were scattered all over the northern parts of Borno precisely along the fringes of the Nigeria-Niger, Nigeria-Chadian and Nigeria-Cameroonian border and because the insurgents have international collaborators and safe haven in some of these countries, they find it easy to identify weak formations after which they mobilize their forces to attack such weak formations and units. What we did through Super Camp is the elimination of all formations and units that are weak so that they will no longer be target for attack and exploitation by the insurgents. Instead of staying put in some of these areas, exposing themselves to enemy attacks, they now launch raids and offensive attacks on the insurgents. The insurgents and their informants no longer have the upper hand because they don’t know what step the Army is going to take, where the Army will launch an ambush and so on. But some ill informed persons who don’t really know the technicality involve in asymmetrical warfare like the one we are fighting in northern Borno went to town saying that the Army had withdrawn its forces from the areas it once protected so that the insurgents can have freedom to operate. This is total fallacy. What we have done is to create Super Camps and from thence launch series of offensive attacks, raids and ambush on the insurgents.
Gambari (2019) believes that guns and bullets alone cannot totally defeat insurgency except in Angola where the elimination of Jonas Savimbi led to the collapse of the UNITA armed opposition group. This is tandem with Thompson (1966) who argued that for any government to defeat insurgency; such government must do the following:
● Clear political aim which in this case is that the government must show interest in negotiating with the leaders of the insurgency with a view to finding a long lasting political solution to the insurgency. As Gambari (2019) observed that if at the end of all military struggles, warring factions eventually come to the negotiation table to find common grounds that can enable them to develop short and long term political solutions to their problems, why wait for so long?
● The government must function in accordance with the law. The government already has legitimacy because it is democratically elected y the majority of Nigerians in an election that the civil societies and the international community adjudged to be free and fair. The government is working according to the rule law and our operations in the threatre of operations are also in tandem with the rules of engagement of military operations.
● The government must have an overall plan. The administration of President Buhari had come up with the Buhari Plan since 2016 when it launched the defunct Presidential Committee on the Northeast Initiative which has now been transformed in to the Northeast Development Commission. It is an all encompassing plan formulated to address the root causes and after effects of the insurgency through short and long term strategies.
● The government must give priority to defeating the political subversion, not the insurgents. In other words, defeating the people who serve as soldiers of the insurgency should not be the primary priority of the government but defeating the whole system and those shadowy characters behind it.
● The government must secure its base areas first. This we have done though collaboration with other government security agencies and also through the Super Camp.
But since I am not a politician but a soldier whose primary duty is to safeguard the territorial integrity of Nigeria from all kinds of external aggression, low intensity conflicts, insurgency and the rest, I will not waste time thinking about political solutions to this crisis but use military might to defeat them until they are totally incapacitated. We have already achieved that in places like Adamawa,Yobe,parts of Gombe, Kogi and the rests. We shall do the same for Borno. Those remnants of the insurgents that are lurking around in fringes of the border between Borno and Chad/Cameroon/Niger republics are presently receiving hard knocks through the Super Camp. I believe that isolating insurgents and terrorists from their bases of support (some towns and villages in northern Borno) is probably the most important element of successful campaigns against them. We are doing aggressive patrolling, ambush, raids and continuous offensive bombardments on the insurgents anywhere they are. We don’t need to be hundred percent sure of our intelligence to carry out this operations. Once we are sure that we have between 60 to 70 percent accuracy our intelligence, we move to in to attack the insurgents. This had helped us to limit their mobility and range of the insurgents which in effect means that we have taken away their space and their time. Many of the insurgents are now coming out to surrender themselves to the Army while the few that are adamant are dying of starvation of misery in the bushes.
When we started the Super Camp, some unscrupulous elements in the local and most especially international media gave it a bad name. They said that the Army had withdrawn from all its formation in the Theater of operations, leaving locales at the mercy of the marauding insurgents. Unknown to them and if they know, I will say this is mischievous, publicity is like an oxygen to the insurgents. Once we can remove this “oxygen of publicity,” we can increase other aspects of counterinsurgency and the gaining of popular support. Now that everyone is witnessing the potency and efficacy of the Super Camp, many of the local media but mostly the international media had suddenly decided to keep mum.
What is important for people to know is that our commanders carry out massive offensive onslaughts on the marauding insurgents based on tactical actions and credible intelligence. Thesetactical commanders concentrate on designing offensive land operations after determining what objectives will achieve decisive results; where troops will operate, the relationships among subordinate forces in time and purpose, and where to apply the decisive effort.
The purpose of these tactical operations which we have launched though Super Camp is to attack the insurgents’ center of gravity throughsimultaneously or sequentially attacking their decisive points. Massed effects of joint and multinational forces allow us to seize the initiative because it denies the insurgents freedom of action, disrupt their sources of strength, and create the conditions for operational and tactical success.
CHARACTERISTICS OF OFFENSIVE OPERATIONS CARRIED OUT BY SUPER CAMPS
- The offensive attacks are characterized by surprises, concentration, tempo, and audacity. Our commanders and troops attack the insurgents at a place or time they never expected or in a situation they are unprepared to face or cope with. As General Patton said in War As I see It, estimating the enemy commander’s intent and denying him the ability to gain thorough and timely situational understanding is necessary to achieve surprise. Unpredictability and boldness help gain surprise. By diminishing enemy combat power, surprise enables attackers to exploit paralysis and hesitancy. The man is right because sudden, violent and unanticipated attacks have a paralyzing effect on the insurgents.
- We usually ensure that these offensive operations are carried out on based on accurate intelligence and other relevant information regarding the insurgents, weather, and terrain. Commanders maneuver their forces to advantageous positions before contact.
- We try to see that the insurgents don’t have access to accurate information about our operations though the use of highly effective defensive information operations (IO). We only allow them to see what we want to see or hear. In this way, we can keep or inhibits the enemy from acquiring accurate information about friendly forces.
- . Contact with enemy forces before the decisive operation is deliberate, designed to shape the optimum situation for the decisive operation.
- The decisive operation is a sudden, shattering action that capitalizes on subordinate initiative and a common operational picture (COP) to expand throughout the AO. Commanders execute violently without hesitation to break the enemy’s will or destroy him.
For those who that have been carefully following developments in the theatre of operations in the northeast, they will realize that one of the strategies that I have been using is the control of tempo of war to confuse and confound the enemy so that I can always have the initiative and the upper hand. For example the Theatre Commanders (TCs) that I usually post to the Theater consists of officers of different tempos. This is because controlling or altering tempo is necessary to retain the initiative in every war especially the war against insurgency and terrorism.
“Men are basically smart or dumb and lazy or ambitious. The dumb and ambitious ones are dangerous and I get rid of them. The dumb and lazy ones I give mundane duties. The smart ambitious ones I put on my staff. The smart and lazy ones I make my commanders.” ~ Erwin Rommel
- Patton, George S., Paul D. Harkins, and Beatrice Banning Ayer Patton.(1947) War as I knew it. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.
- Fisher, Thomas(2014) The Planners Handbook.Lulu.com
- Prof. Gambari,I.(2019)On Peace Building and Conflict Management,[NCMG Awards,2019 at Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja],14 November
- Thompson,R.(1966) Principles of Counter Insurgency from Defeating Communist Insurgency.
Tactical commanders direct offensive operations to achieve objectives—destroying enemy forces or seizing terrain—that produce the theater-level effects operational commanders require.