Boko Haram is nearing the point where it can be credibly described as an Islamist statelet with a conventional army rather than just an insurgent group. Since July 2014, Boko Haram has advanced rapidly, and now stands on the brink of seizing the Nigerian state of Borno and its capital, Maiduguri. As the Nigerian Security Network explains:
If Boko Haram are able to continue seizing territory in Borno, including the state capital, it is likely that almost the entire state will soon fall under the insurgency’s control. This will be the realisation of Boko Haram’s ambition to establish a caliphate in north-east Nigeria…If Borno falls to Boko Haram, parts of Yobe and Adamawa can be expected to follow. Parts of Cameroon along the border area would also probably be overrun. Unless swift action is taken, Nigeria could be facing a rapid takeover of a large area of its territory reminiscent of ISIS’s lightening advances in Iraq.
Following ISIS’ lead, Boko Haram has already begun to call itself a caliphate. And its militants are becoming both better equipped and more organized. According to the NSN, one report compares Boko Haram’s soldiers using heavy weapons and tanks while the Nigerian soldiers facing them are often sent into the field with only 60 rounds of ammunition.John Campbell, a former US Ambassador to Nigeria and no one’s idea of a hothead, has been sounding the alarm bell at the CFR blog. Boko Haram might not be ISIS, but its ISIS’ West African wannabe — just as evil, just as vicious, and if not yet as capable, certainly aiming to grow more so. If Boko fractures Nigeria, it would have serious regional security implications—not to mention be a humanitarian crisis that would dwarf the #bringbackourgirls incident.