Boko Haram and its offshoot ISIS-West Africa (ISIS-WA) remain a serious security threat to communities across Central Africa’s Lake Chad Region. According to the Department of State’s latest Country Reports on Terrorism, attacks by Boko Haram and ISIS-WA have caused nearly 2.5 million people in Nigeria alone to flee their homes. Nigeria, along with its neighbors Cameroon, Chad, and Niger are working together to counter these threats. The United States provides advisors, intelligence, training, logistical support, and equipment to Lake Chad region countries and supports a wide range of stabilization efforts. I recently visited Chad to evaluate one of these support projects, funded through the Global Security Contingency Fund (GSCF).
Boko Haram and ISIS-WA, like many terrorist and insurgent groups around the world, routinely take advantage of porous borders to launch attacks, evade capture, secure supplies, and enroll new recruits. Regional cooperation is essential to strengthening border security, and with U.S. support, Chad, Nigeria, and their neighbors can disrupt Boko Haram’s freedom of movement, thus degrading their capability to conduct attacks and terrorize innocent families. Also, because terrorism is much more than just a military threat, assistance must be coordinated across a country’s entire security sector to build the capabilities of not only a country’s military but also its police, border guards, and law enforcement institutions.
A joint fund between the Department of State and the Department of Defense, GSCF is a unique authority aimed at tackling this challenge. Through GSCF, we combine diplomacy and defense to provide support to partner nations’ security and law enforcement institutions to address emergent challenges and opportunities that we consider important to U.S. national security and our foreign policy interests. Between 2015 and 2017, we invested $40 million through GSCF toward training and equipment for security forces, border guards, and other security sector organizations in Chad, Niger, Nigeria, and Cameroon to increase the capacity of security sector organizations in the Lake Chad Basin to respond to threats from transnational terrorist organizations. Other GSCF projects during this time helped Ukraine to build a new National Guard and the Philippines to build its maritime security capabilities.
As with any assistance program, monitoring and evaluation are key to ensuring that we have met U.S. program objectives effectively and efficiently. Our team met with Chadian security force officials to assess the impact of the training and equipment provided under the GSCF’s Counter Boko Haram project, which was completed in 2017. Even a year after the project was completed, our findings suggest that GSCF-funded activities successfully laid a foundation for cross-border cooperation to secure shared borders.
The GSCF project assisted countries in the Lake Chad Region in developing national border security strategies and increasing cross-ministerial interoperability and collaboration.Training participants developed national border security strategies that were shared with other countries in the region, and cross-border communication improved based on relationships initiated at GSCF training events and conferences. Participants now routinely exchange information with personnel from other security organizations both within Chad and with other Lake Chad Region countries and have begun to pass along timely and actionable intelligence relating to security concerns.
Our team assessed that the training improved the capacity of Chadian forces to conduct reconnaissance missions, establish relationships with the civilian populace to gather intelligence on terrorist activity, and maintain cross-border communications with neighboring countries. Responses from training participants were overwhelmingly positive and show how the training helped foster inter-organizational relationships and develop mission-specific skills related to community oriented policing, rural border patrol operations, and reconnaissance.
Community Oriented Policing Training – Chadian Gendarmerie
Several participants in the Community Oriented Policing course said that the most useful part of the training was learning the CAPRA (Clients, Acquire/Analyze, Partnerships, Response, and Assessment of Action Taken) problem-solving method for community policing. This aspect of the course increased their understanding of the value of developing relationships with local communities and gathering information to piece together the whole story.
Another member of the Gendarmerie shared his story of a mission that took place in July. His unit received information that Boko Haram would be operating in southern Chad. They sent a small team to patrol and work with local leaders and the community to apprehend the members of Boko Haram.
Before the training, security forces responded to terror threats reactively and lethally. The civilian population was afraid of the military and police and had no desire to report any helpful information. Since the Gendarmerie began implementing routine proactive patrols and building a relationship with communities, they are able to more effectively protect the people they serve.
Rural Border Patrol Operations Training – Chadian Immigration and Customs
In 2017, while traveling to Niger, a senior Chadian official participating in GSCF training found that the National Police in the area were not using appropriate vehicle search techniques at checkpoints. Along the route, he met with leaders at each checkpoint to instruct them on proper procedures. He taught them what he had learned in the Rural Border Patrol Operations training, such as techniques for searching the vehicle and the type of questions to ask the vehicles occupants, rather than only checking identifications. These recommendations were well received, and he found on his return trip that changes had been implemented at each of these checkpoints.
When another Chadian participant returned from her Rural Border Patrol Operations training in Montross, Virginia, she sought to improve training and operations in Airport Customs. She took the initiative to secure funding and order uniforms for the customs officers and will order additional new equipment based on what she learned from this course. She is also working to significantly improve training for new officers and facilitate collaboration between Customs and the other security organizations working at the airport, like the National Police. Security officials at the airport now view her as a role model, and her suggestions have increased the capabilities and professionalism of airport security in the capital.
Much work remains ahead for Chad and its neighbors in the fight against Boko Haram. GSCF has helped deliver new and improved capabilities to step up to the challenge to improve regional security, allowing displaced families to return to their homes and rebuild. The continuing success of regional counter Boko Haram endeavors stands as testimony to the importance of regional cooperation.
About the Author: Katherine Dukarm serves as a Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist in the Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs' Office of Global Programs and Initiatives.
Editor's Note: This entry is also published in the Department's publication on Medium.