Special Operations: Friendly Misfire In Nigeria

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December 25, 2015: President Buhari of Nigeria, who took office in March, is furious at former president Johnson and military officers who, recent audits revealed, looted the defense budget of several billion dollars in 2014 and 2015 even as Johnson was boasting of how much money he was spending on the troops and the vicious war they were fighting in northeast Nigeria against Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram. Being a retired army officer, Buhari suspected something was amiss with the Boko Haram campaign. Money was being allocated for equipment and weapons but he was hearing that the troops at the front were seeing little of it. Buhari ordered a change in the way the military does business as soon as he came to power in March. As a retired general he knew how to assess and address the current commanders and soon enacted a number of military reforms. This has led to the dismissal of a lot of officers, especially in the army. One general was even jailed for incompetence, misbehavior and losing a major battle to Boko Haram. There are new training programs, which the troops appreciate as a lot of corrupt or incompetent officers did not want to be bothered with such things in the past. While most of the new training programs have been for the army, the navy, which is taking the lead against oil thieves in the south, has done the same.

One of the things that really angered Buhari was the fate of the new 72nd Special Forces battalion the army assembled in 2014. This unit took the best special operations troops it could find in all three services. It even sent 36 of the younger candidates off to Pakistan for special operations training. In early 2015 the 72nd was sent against Boko Haram in the northeast with orders to do maximum damage. This the battalion did, but took heavy casualties as it did so. Over 75 percent of those officers sent to Pakistan for commando training died in the process of inflicting a major defeat on Boko Haram. The survivors of the special operations battalion later complained that weapons, vehicles and supplies they were promised never arrived and no explanation was given. But the Buhari and senior Special Forces troops knew what had happened; corruption.

Buhari had the authority to order a through audit of the campaign that almost destroyed the 72nd found out that the main problem was indeed corruption. This kept the troops from getting many of the items they needed (sometimes even including food and pay). Many of the corrupt officers in the military fear Buhari will follow through with massive prosecutions and punishments, especially of those who stole in wartime. If nothing else this rumor has done wonders for the morale of the troops and made is safer for people to speak openly of corruption they visited. .

 


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