The second part in this series began to lay out a few of the internal drivers for Nigeria’s conflict with Boko Haram. The religious aspect is not to be overlooked, of course, but often it is poverty that attracts people to radicalism with religion acting as the rhetoric. While Islamism is a powerful movement in the Middle East and parts of Africa, at the end of the day, conflicts are fought by actors attempting to maximize the amount of power they have over a given piece of terrain. This chapter of the series will take a closer look at some of the external drivers for this conflict.
While there were plenty of motivating factors behind Nigeria’s conflict, there were also external ones such as the Libyan Civil War and the rise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq. As the Nigerian Army, with the help of South African contractors, put Boko Haram on the ropes, Abubakr Shekau pledged his allegiance to ISIS. Interestingly, there is also a power struggle within two factions of Al-Shabab in Somalia. One faction wants to remain aligned with al-Qaeda while the other wants to pledge allegiance to ISIS.
“It did not require a nuclear physicist to predict that the collapse of Libya would result in the proliferation of weapons and conflict across North and West Africa,” Eeben Barlow, the chairman of STTEP, told SOFREP. Specialized Tasks, Training, Equipment, and Protection (STTEP) provided training and combat support to a Nigerian strike force from January to March of 2015. “It is also no secret that Boko Haram has been the beneficiary of some training and equipment from ISIL,” Barlow continued. “Prisoners have told us that Boko Haram is and has been supplied and supported by ‘Europeans’ who have arrived in their safe areas by helicopter.”