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Thursday, 19 August 2021

Can Boko Haram Take Over Nigeria Like Taliban Did Afghanistan? TheCable Explains

The news cycle in virtually every nation on earth has been dominated by reports detailing how the Taliban, a fundamentalist Islamist group, took over Afghanistan, a country where foreign military units have laboured for decades, causing the president to flee the country. 

This has drawn up questions and conversations on and off social media: Can Boko Haram ever pull up a hostile take over like this? Yes. No. Maybe. Not in 100 years? There is no short answer to this question.

TheCable will, however, attempt an answer based on all the facts we have about the situations in Nigeria, Afghanistan and the various influences around the world.

To do this, we would be diving into more than 40 years of the history of an Islamist group like this, the birth of the ideology, the marriage to politics, and an unending quest for power, influence and dominion.


Before we proceed, here is some background — if all this is news to you: On Sunday, August 15, 2021, an Islamic group wielding heavy guys took over Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan. A day before, the president of the country Ashraf Ghani fled the country, basically leaving the group to take over the reins.

As the Taliban took over the city, US forces, US workers, persons who worked with the US government as interpreters, fixers, and activists began to run to the airport, in an attempt to escape the incoming rule of the Taliban. But who exactly are these ‘Taliban’?

A SHORT HISTORY OF THE TALIBAN


The Soviet Union, yes that Soviet Union from the 1920s, or if you like USSR, occupied Afghanistan for many years, starting from 1979. A guerrilla group called the Mujahideen fought against the Soviets for about a decade in the 1980s. The United States did not like the Soviets, so the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) gave money and arms to the Mujahideens to fight the Soviet soldiers.



In 1989, as the Soviet Union got weaker, they pulled out of Afghan territory, before the USSR broke down in 1991 — for good.

When the enemy pulled out, these Mujahideen warlords had so much weapons but no one to fight. So they began fighting tribal wars. The civil war became official in the early 1990s. The country was in chaos.

So a small group of soldiers from the Mujahideen, who had studied conservative and radical Islam, began an offensive that claimed to secure the country and rule by Islamic and Sharia laws. This birth the Taliban as led by Mullah Omar in 1994. They took over the country from city to city, till they took Kabul in 1996.

They declared a government and made the country the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. This emirate was governed by their own interpretation of Islamic laws. They barred women and girls from school, enforced a certain kind of dressing, barred western songs and movies, stoned people to death for adultery — among many other things.



OSAMA YEARS: AMERICA’S FRIENDS BECOMES AMERICA’S ENEMY


On September 11, 2001, Islamist terrorist group Al-Qaeda attacked the World Trade Centre and three key places in the United States, killing nearly 3,000 people on US soil. The saga is referred to as 9/11.

Looking for vengeance, the US sought the head of Al-Qaeda who was best known as Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden was hiding in Afghanistan. So the US reached out to its old friend, the Taliban, to give up Osama, but the Taliban refused.

President George W. Bush went to war in Afghanistan.

In a matter of weeks, the US ousted the Taliban, helped form a new government, a new constitution, elections, and the Taliban was out of power.



“I said to the Taliban, turn them over, destroy the camps… I said, you’ve got time to do it. But they didn’t listen. They didn’t respond, and now they’re paying a price. They are learning that anyone who strikes America will hear from our military, and they’re not going to like what they hear,” Bush said in October 2001. 

While the Taliban was out, they did not stop fighting. They did not stop regrouping. Remember, some of their soldiers fought the soviets for about 10 years. So America’s immediate victory was not new to them.

For years, Osama was eluding America. George Bush left power in 2008 — seven years after sending soldiers to Afghanistan — but still did not get Osama.

It took three years into the Barack Obama administration before Osama was found and killed in Pakistan.



OSAMA KILLED BUT NO END TO WAR


 


After Bin Laden’s death, poll numbers began to show that many Americans did not support the war in Afghanistan. So Obama announced a withdrawal from the country.

“Our mission will change from combat to support.  By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security,” Obama said in June 2011.

By 2016 however, US troops were still in Afghanistan, Obama said he would leave 8,400 soldiers in the country because of Taliban resurgence.

“I will not allow Afghanistan to be used as a safe haven for terrorists to attack our nation again… the security situation in Afghanistan remains precarious. It is in our national security interest that we give our Afghan partners the best opportunities to succeed,” Obama said.

Donald Trump, who succeeded Obama as president, also announced the exit of American forces from Afghanistan. He said by Christmas 2020, they would be home to their families. That did not entirely happen.

JOE BIDEN AND THE TRILLION-DOLLAR WAR


Joe Biden won the 2020 elections and took over as president. He also said troops will be home by August 31, 2021. But this time, he moved faster than his predecessors. Biden said, “speed is safety”.

“After 20 years — a trillion dollars spent training and equipping hundreds of thousands of Afghan National Security and Defense Forces, 2,448 Americans killed, 20,722 more wounded, and untold thousands coming home with unseen trauma to their mental health — I will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan with no reasonable expectation of achieving a different outcome,” Biden said in July 2021.

As the US exits the venue of its 20-year-old war, the near middle eastern country almost immediately fell back in the Taliban’s grip. This has been evident in the videos, pictures and news items coming out of Afghanistan.

Is this the end? Perhaps not, as the American philosopher George Santayana said: “Only the dead have seen the end of war”.

CAN BOKO HARAM TAKE OVER NIGERIA?


With a clear background on the Afghanistan crisis, we can draw easy conclusions. But there are three silent ingredients that are making the soup for this super crisis: Time, money, and allies.

TIME: First, it took the Mujahideens about 10 years — with the help of the US — to push out the soviets. Some of them took another seven years to build the Taliban and take over power in 1996. When they lost power in 2001, they stayed together for 20 years before they took over the country.

Does Boko Haram have time? Yes. They’ve been around for 19 years and active for over 10 years — with no end in sight.

MONEY: Cash played a huge role in the war. No cash, no weapons, and probably no food. According to the UN security council, the Taliban make up to $1.5 billion a year. A majority of their funds come from illegal drug sales — opium and heroine.

Does Boko Haram have the funds? No. Boko Haram does not have the kind of money the Taliban has used to maintain a 20-year war.

ALLIES: Immediately after the takeover of Kabul, Russia and China expressed their readiness to work with the Taliban. This is in addition to Iran and Pakistan, who are considered allies of the group.

Four major countries, including the second-biggest economy in the world, recognise the Taliban. This will be important in forming a new and lasting government.

Does Boko Haram have this sort of allies? Perhaps not. No major country has ever pledged allegiance to Boko Haram, against the Nigerian state. Secret allies? That is up for debate.

CONCLUSION: At this point, we believe you can draw your conclusion. On our end, time is the dicey factor here. With time, rag-tag armies have built allies and sourced funds to execute decades-long insurgencies. The Nigerian government must, as an urgent matter, ensure that Boko Haram does not gain allies or build a war chest that can make its fighters believe that they can run a Nigerian Emirate anytime in the near or distant future.

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