Note: This is part five of a series. You can read part one, part twopart three, and part four here.

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.”

What anti-government force maintains helicopters—which would allude to a state sponsor—is unknown. As usual, there are more questions than answers.

The inadvertent impact of American support in Syria

SOFREP has previously reported on American support for the Free Syrian Army (FSA). A number of covert programs have been underway for several years to arm and train members of the FSA. One such program involves transporting FSA members from Aleppo to an airfield in Turkey, where they are then flown to a Gulf state. Once there, they receive training from Americans, including how to use the TOW missile system.

The mission to vett alleged moderate rebels in Syria has been ongoing, sparking a few turf wars between the Central Intelligence Agency and the Army’s Intelligence Support Activity as contractors working within an Alternative or Compensatory Control Measures (ACCM) program were deployed to find viable partner forces in Syria. An ACCM allows information and operations to be compartmentalized on a need-to-know basis. In this way, the various participants in the program have no idea that they are working as a cog in a much larger machine.