THE NORTH EAST WAR AND BELARUSIAN MAGIC
"who dares, wins.
who sweats, wins.
who plans, wins."
In 2015, prior to the general elections, the newly Belarusian trained Special Forces code named Armed Forces Special Forces (AFSF) were injected into the theatre to nip in the bud, the activities of Boko Haram terrorists in the North East, especially Borno State. The result of this well thought operation plan was no doubt unprecedented and one of the most impactful clearance operations in the theatre so far.
It would be recalled that, shortly after they were introduced into the theatre, AFSF were able to reclaim several territories from the terrorists, pushing them out of their comfort zones with unusual casualties on the side of Boko Haram. They were consistently under intense fire from the Special Forces (SF) and for the first time, the hope of defeating the insurgents surged in the camp of Nigerian troops. The Boko haram members were routed out of their strongholds and safe haven even as it filtered into town that their spiritualists (Amir) have to embark on forty (40) days fasting to seek divine intervention to conquer the superpower SF. The AFSF were being described by the terrorists as "haya n soja", meaning hired soldiers or mercenaries. They were so convinced that these coordinated troops can only be made possible through the help of foreign mercenaries. The AFSF were brutal and too hot to handle for Boko haram.
The 2015 unusual breakthrough cannot be a product of wishful thinking rather concerted efforts and ceaseless training. The Belarusian SF was well trained and there is no gainsaying about this submission as the result cannot be disputed. The Belarusian magic commenced when about seven hundred (700) military men and officers including few members of other agencies were sent to Belarus for over four months to train as Special Forces. They were equipped a little above the conventional army in the theatre and indeed the war against insurgency and the terrorist groups took a new dimension.
No doubt, training is key to any successful adventure. Looking at the Belarus training package holistically, there are lessons to take home especially by policymakers if the country wants to defeat these hydra monsters called Boko haram. These twelve years and still counting is too long a time to be enmeshed in this kind of war and its ripple effects on the nation.
With Belarusian SF's experience in the theatre, it is convincing and assuring that Boko haram is conquerable. The success of Belarus training started with the selection process. Participants were chosen basically on merit by the Belarusian scouts. The selection was devoid of favoritism and imposition as the qualified officers were sound in body, spirit, and soul. The lesson from this selection process is that we cannot be deploying untested and unwilling personnel to the theatre and expect commendable results. Some are sent to the theatre because they are recalcitrant and some are selected because they bought jobs (offended senior officers). You can't be sending greenhorns to war and be expecting victory. I met a newly recruited soldier and his first deployment after training was theatre with a stopover at Buni yadi in Yobe State for orientation before proceeding to Maiduguri for onward deployment. No wonder the needless casualties. I hope this practice had stopped in our deployment. Our best in all departments should be deployed if we want results. The best amongst the Belarusian trained SF were in the theatre and the results were obvious.
Also, the place of welfare in warfare cannot be overemphasized. When the AFSF tells you that morale is high, it is not just mere rhetoric or military slogan, their morale was indeed high. At the point of departure to Belarus, everyone was paid allowances of over seven thousand dollars ($7,000), hence, it was reported that during their weekend outings in Belarus, officers and men were always painting the malls red to the amazement of their host country. It doesn't cost them anything to brag that they represent Nigeria, the land flowing with milk and honey. These were the experiences of AFSF members in Belarus and no excuse for not giving their best in training. It was reported that the worst punishment you can give any erring officer is to deny them a weekend outing. Unlike in the theatre where soldiers are not sure when their meagre allowance is going to be paid, this aspect is germane to sustain the commitment and morale of the officers and men at the war front.
Similarly, the operations of Special Forces are usually different from the conventional army. SF is given a specific task to be done within a given period. They are trained in all aspects of war to the extent that they can operate as independent units.
It is so disturbing to note that as at my last check, the AFSF that trained in Belarus which was under the office of the Chief of Defence Staff are no longer together as a unit. Even most of them have been harmonized by their various arm of service and they are doing great. Also, some of them are part of a formidable team under Defence, known as Defence Special Ops Force (DSOF) who are equally performing brilliantly well in their given assignments. It is equally encouraging to hear that some of them were given juicy courses within and outside the country as a way of appreciating their sacrifices. On a final note, such a formidable team should not be disbanded so soon. No one changes a winning team or winning tactics. They ought to be together and keep training together with the more. It will be a disservice to officers and men of AFSF that pays the Supreme price during the course of their assignment if I fail to acknowledge their roles in the success story. The best honour to this category of officers is to sustain the team and improve their expertise in honour of their late comrades.