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Brown: Loosening terror's grip

BY MARCUS VINCENT BROWN | MAY 12, 2015 5:00 AM

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The rise of Islamic militant groups such ISIS and Boko Haram have become a global concern, with widespread displays of terror ranging from gruesome beheadings to mass kidnappings. These extremist groups have used propaganda and fear to extend their reach into area in which they cannot physically invade. That said, their lack of physical presence on our own soil does not negate their threat to more susceptible nations across the globe.

Nigeria in particular has fought bitterly against Boko Haram with great success in terms of reclaiming territory once controlled by the terrorist group. While the Nigerian military has won the upper hand for the time being, risk stems from a lack of solid national infrastructure and a loss of morale in their own military.

The difficulty in combating Boko Haram is not an issue of troops and ammunitions but rather combating the conditions that allow for such a terror group to flourish. Boko Haram is not a newly formed organization, nor is its persistence surprising. The group has been around for more than a decade and has survived various attempts to stamp it out in Nigeria. What we are seeing today is only its newest incarnation bolstered by the presence of similar terrorist organizations across the world.

Boko Haram began as religious compound formed in part to counter the prevalence of Western education in Nigeria. The goals of the organization began to evolve until it became a militant organization targeting public Nigerian institutions.

The original leader of the group, a Muslim cleric named Mohammed Yusuf, was killed in 2009 by Nigerian forces. Boko Haram was believed to be eliminated, but it re-emerged under new leadership and an eventual pledge of solidarity with ISIS.  

Although Boko Haram has lost much of the territory seized last year and earlier this year, the terrorist group still remains an immediate threat. The Nigerian military has managed to push back Boko Haram forces substantially, but the military lacks the resources to hold off Boko Haram forces indefinitely. The soil that allowed such a group to take hold is as fertile as ever, while the forces that keep it at bay are dwindling. As a result, the focus cannot be on simply trying to contain Boko Haram forces through military conflict alone.

History has shown that it is not enough to eradicate the most current incarnation of Boko Haram and similar organizations without addressing the issues that contributed to their formation in the first place. Widespread poverty, lack of emphasis on education, and poor infrastructure make for an ideal breeding ground for groups such as Boko Haram.

These institutions of terror are as much a product of their environment as they are an expression of religious extremism. Zealous ideology alone is not enough to form a militant group capable of combatting national armies. The ideology is merely a catalyst for preexisting conditions to develop to catastrophic proportions. The names and goals may change over time, but the conditions in which terror flourishes have always been the same.


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