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Nigeria’s Troubling Counterinsurgency Strategy Against Boko Haram

How the Military and Militias Are Fueling Insecurity

A soldier walks past a checkpoint in Bama, Borno State, Nigeria, August 2016.  Afolabi Sotunde / REUTERS

The kidnapping of 110 schoolgirls from Dapchi last month is the latest event to cast doubt on the Nigerian government’s claims that Boko Haram has been technically defeated. Unfortunately, the attack should have come as no surprise. Since 2015, the jihadist group has lost significant territorial control and no longer holds major cities. But as I saw during my fieldwork in Nigeria in January, the jihadist threat is far from gone, and counterinsurgency policies continue to be troubled and troubling.

Since 2009, Boko Haram has waged a brutal insurgency in northeastern Nigeria and neighboring countries. Both its violent jihad and the Nigerian government’s and militias’ counterinsurgency and counterterrorism efforts have led to the deaths of tens of thousands of people, the prolonged detention and disappearance of tens of thousands more, and the displacement of over two million. There has also been massive economic devastation in an already exceedingly poor and underdeveloped

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