Fighting Against Terrorism in West Africa: Assessing the MNJTF Organization

2637 words (11 pages) Essay in International Studies

23/09/19 International Studies Reference this

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Fighting Against Terrorism in West Africa: Assessing the MNJTF Organization

The nations of the Lake Chad Basin have a long history of cooperation, including initiatives aimed at reducing the effects of climate change, combating desertification and drought, tackling food insecurity, and addressing related problems of agricultural underproduction and resource scarcity.[1] Beginning in mid-2014, Boko Haram’s presence began to spread beyond Nigeria to the neighboring countries of the Lake Chad Basin, including Niger, Chad, and Cameroon, compelling these countries to participate in a response to combat the insurgent group’s growing threat to the region’s stability. The nations redirected the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) -originally formed to combat smuggling and crime on Lake Chad – towards countering Boko Haram by focusing on sharing intelligence, synchronizing operations, and de-conflicting each nation’s counter-Boko Haram operations. Overall, while the countries of the Lake Chad Basin have made considerable progress in countering Boko Haram, including reducing the number of large-scale attacks on civilians and capturing the terrorists’ main strongholds, recent reports show that the insurgent group is still operational and able to carry out offensive missions against military and civilian targets.[2]

The objective of this study is to assess the MNJTF’s design and organization and review its organization-wide requirements to better its performance fighting terrorist groups in the Lake Chad region.

This paper argues that cohesion and common standard procedures are often key element of success when African coalition forces are facing jihadist groups. The goal is obviously to provide the whole joint force with much more flexibility and reactivity, to avoid bureaucratic problems and keep pace with complex change and evolving security situations. My analysis rests on the Mintzberg’s principles and  Michael J. Burke and Christy L. McLendon’s study on cohesion and performance in groups.

Why cohesion is essential?

As discussed by Stig Jarle Hansen, the term cohesion refers to a sort of cement that keeps a group together. Hansen underlines that cohesion was imported to the English language in 1590 from the French word “cohérence” to mean “nonmaterial association.”[3] It is therefore easy to associate the term cohesion or cohesiveness with the notion of integration when it comes to military coalition or military alliance. Collation cohesion allows the members of the coalition to work together more easily and feel confident about their collective achievements.

Yet, military coalition’s cohesion is influenced by several factors, such as trust, cooperation, political differences, and partner closeness. Definitely, it is not easy for different member states to stay focus and remain united in the pursuit of a common goal in the light of these factors. National interests or private interests occasionally take precedence over group interest, without necessarily denying them. However, collective action is of a different degree of performance.

This is observation is compelling with what Michael J. Burke and Christy L. McLendon showed in their study, and suggests why cohesion is so important. Basically, “performance behaviors exhibited stronger relations with cohesion than did performance outcomes.”[4] To put it another way, cohesion fosters achievement of highest levels.

MNJTF: Background and organizational structure

Before the emergence of the Boko Haram insurgency, the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) founded the Multinational Joint Security Force (MJSF) on 21 March 1994. The MJSF was directed to combat cross-border crime in the region.[5] Although the LCBC states welcomed this regional initiative, the joint force remained limited to irregular and insignificant patrols on the shores of Lake Chad and was ineffective in achieving any genuine improvement in the overall security situation because, having been at odds with Nigeria in a border conflict since 1993 over the Bakassi peninsula, Cameroon was reluctant to cooperate with Nigeria’s forces and did not participate.  In 1998, the force’s patrols were halted.

In 2014, Boko Haram’s rapid expansion and its cross-border attacks into Cameroon, Niger, and Chad forced the nations of the Lake Chad basin to respond. Their initial reactions focused primarily on containing Boko Haram in Nigeria and protecting each nation’s own vital interests. The LCBC reactivated the MJSF, rebranding it the “Multinational Joint Task Force” (MNJTF).[6]  

In 2016, with the establishment of the MNJTF, the five countries of Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Niger, and Benin significantly improved their coordination and operation reach.

The MNJTF mandate included creating a safe and secure environment in the areas affected by Boko Haram and other terrorist groups, reducing violence against civilians, facilitating the implementation of overall stabilization programs by the LCBC member states and Benin, and facilitating humanitarian operations and the delivery of assistance to affected populations.[7]

The MNJTF operates under the control of the Heads of State and governments (represented by the Minister of Defense) of the LCBC (depicted in the chart1 and Chart2). The African Union provides strategic support to the joint force and serve as a conduit between the LCBC and the funding agencies, the donor conferences, and the others international organizations.[8]

The MNJTF is organized in four sectors, corresponding to the territory of each state affected by the Boko Haram insurgency.[9] The MNJTF Force Commander oversees day-to-day operational supervision, coordinating actions of the MNJTF/HQ (depicted in Chart3) and managing the operations of the four national sectors in Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger, and Chad.

Chart1. MNJTF organizational design (source West Africa Report Assessing the Multinational Joint Task Force against Boko Haram, ISSUE 19 | SEPTEMBER 201

Chart2. Organigram of the MNJTF

Chart3. MNJTF Command and Control Structure

The problem the organization face. 

Recent studies have shown that the MNJTF achieved considerable progress in countering Boko Haram.[10] My own view, however, is that the MNJTF continues to be hindered by several factors, such as size of the combat unit, budget constraints, standard operational procedures, military capabilities, and environmental factors. I will use the framework provided by Henry Mintzberg to assess the MNJTF organizational arrangements.

Chart4. Mintzberg organizational model

Mintzberg’s model (depicted in chat4) breaks down organization into five fundamental components: the strategic apex, the middle line, the operating core, the technostructure and the support staff. The strategic apex is the top leadership of the organization. Mintzberg believes the strategic apex’s role is to define the mission of the organization, and outline how it interrelates with the environment.[11] The Executive secretary of the LCBC and the council of Minister of Defense play this role, in this regard. They have defined the long term strategy to thwart Boko Haram insurgency, however political cleavages not only between regional states but also internally in the LCBC secretariat remain a source of major concern. 

The middle line provides the link between the strategic apex and the operating core.[12] In our case, the MNJTF force commander plays this role. He acts as an intermediary between multiple process. it is a very sensitive position since the organization have been underfunded since its inception.[13]

The operating core carries out the daily field operation of the organization.[14] The four national sectors in Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger, and Chad play this role. I identify two main problems with this arrangement: firstly, the lack of closeness, there are big differences in combat doctrine and capabilities between the armies of the Nigeria, Cameoon, Niger, and Chad. As a result, cohesion and interoperability are very low. Secondly, the large-size military unit are not particularly well adapted to fight the ever-shifting clandestine networks. The literature review findings suggest that small-unit-actions fit the unconventional warfare the best.[15]

The technostructure covers teams working in functions such as human resources, training, finance and planning.[16] Mintzberg points out that “analysts decide on the best ways to perform jobs and seek to standardize procedures, and planners decide on outputs and define quality requirements.”[17] The MNJTF/HQ plays this role. Obviously, the Nigerian military culture have greatly influenced the way the MNJTF/HQ is organized and the way it operates. Nigeria has a long history of successful peacekeeping operations that dates back to Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) in the civil war in Liberia (1989–96). Therefore, numerous operational procedures that were being used then are still used today. This confirms the notion that “the longer a process is around, the harder it will be to change.”[18]

Fit and Effectiveness

Thinking about the MNJTF effectiveness means trying to answer the question what are the organizational arrangements that best fit its operational needs. The MNJTF is a bureaucratic organization serving both military and political objectives. The MNJTF fulfills its mandate of protecting the civilian population in an unstable and complex environment.

As discussed by Mintzberg, the organization needs to be design to better face the challenges that it confronts and the critical factors that influence it. Moreover, he underlines that a decentralized structure can adapt easier to a complex and dynamic environment than a more formalized, bureaucratic structure (depicted in chart5).

In this regard, in order to improve the MNJTF’s effectiveness and overall performance, we may consider the following arrangements:

1, Enhance cohesion measures (improve the collective training among the regional states armies, develop incentive to work together towards successful counterterrorism operations, continue to settle political difference between the four national political leadership)

2, Develop standard operational procedures that provide guideline in the field of security operation and logistic support (improve finance framework top down from the AU to the regional state)

3, Downsize the combat unit format to improve the overall agility and stealth (focus on small unit action strategy)

Chart5. Environment X Organization nature

Conclusion

The MNJTF is a bureaucratic organization serving both military and political objectives, that fulfill its mandate in an unstable and complex environment. The LCBC countries, the African Union, and the other international partners have devoted large amounts of resources to building up the MNJTF, consequently the MNJTF achieved considerable progress in countering Boko Haram. However, recent reports show that the insurgent group is still operational and able to carry out offensive missions against military and civilian targets. Actually, the coalition’s efforts are hampered by several factors, such as poor strategic coordination, lack of standard procedure among the four regional states, and environmental features. This assessment helped to determine that the present framework governing the MNJTF is not is sufficiently flexible to adapt and respond to the ever-shifting clandestine terrorist networks in the Lake Chad region.

Cohesion and common standard procedures must be given more consideration since this features are often key element of success when African coalition forces are facing jihadist groups.

Bibliography

  • Admin. “MNJTF Mandate.” MNJTF (blog). Accessed October 2, 2018. https://www.mnjtf.org/about-mnjtf/mnjtf-mandate/.
  • Assanvo, William. “Assessing the Multinational Joint Task Force against Boko Haram,” n.d., 16.
  • Beal, Daniel J., Robin R. Cohen, Michael J. Burke, and Christy L. McLendon. “Cohesion and Performance in Groups: A Meta-Analytic Clarification of Construct Relations.” Journal of Applied Psychology 88, no. 6 (2003): 989–1004. https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.88.6.989.
  • Berghezan, Georges. “Éradiquer Boko Haram : acteurs multiples, résultat incertain,” n.d., 24.
  • Galula, David, and John A Nagl. Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice. New Delhi; Place of publication not identified: Pentagon Press ; Praeger Security International, 2010.
  • Hansen, Stig Jarle. “Unity Under Allah? Cohesion Mechanisms in Jihadist Organizations in Africa.” Armed Forces & Society 44, no. 4 (October 1, 2018): 587–605. https://doi.org/10.1177/0095327X17740086.
  • Hentz, James J, and Hussein Solomon. Understanding Boko Haram: Terrorism and Insurgency in Africa. London; New York: Routledge, 2017. http://www.tandfebooks.com/isbn/9781315525051.
  • Hill, Tiffany F. “An Analysis of the Organizational Structures Supporting PPBE within the Military Departments,” n.d., 151.
  • Mahmood, Omar S, and Ndubuisi Christian Ani. “Responses to Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Region: Policies, Cooperation and Livelihoods,” n.d., 32.
  • Mintzberg, Henry, and Henry Mintzberg. The Structuring of Organizations: A Synthesis of the Research. His Theory of Management Policy Series. Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Prentice-Hall, 1979.
  • “Projects | The Lake Chad Basin Commission.” Accessed October 2, 2018. http://www.cblt.org/en/projects.

[1] “Projects | The Lake Chad Basin Commission,” accessed October 2, 2018, http://www.cblt.org/en/projects.

[2] Georges Berghezan, “Éradiquer Boko Haram : acteurs multiples, résultat incertain,”, 24.

[3] Stig Jarle Hansen, “Unity Under Allah? Cohesion Mechanisms in Jihadist Organizations in Africa,” Armed Forces & Society 44, no. 4 (October 1, 2018): 590, https://doi.org/10.1177/0095327X17740086.

[4] Daniel J. Beal et al., “Cohesion and Performance in Groups: A Meta-Analytic Clarification of Construct Relations,” Journal of Applied Psychology 88, no. 6 (2003): 990, https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.88.6.989.

[5] William Assanvo, “Assessing the Multinational Joint Task Force against Boko Haram,” n.d., 16.

[6] James J Hentz and Hussein Solomon, Understanding Boko Haram: Terrorism and Insurgency in Africa (London; New York: Routledge, 2017), http://www.tandfebooks.com/isbn/9781315525051.

[7] admin, “MNJTF Mandate,” MNJTF (blog), accessed October 2, 2018, https://www.mnjtf.org/about-mnjtf/mnjtf-mandate/.

[8] Assanvo, “Assessing the Multinational Joint Task Force against Boko Haram.”

[9] Assanvo.

[10] Omar S Mahmood and Ndubuisi Christian Ani, “Responses to Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Region: Policies, Cooperation and Livelihoods,” n.d., 32.

[11] Henry Mintzberg and Henry Mintzberg, The Structuring of Organizations: A Synthesis of the Research, His Theory of Management Policy Series (Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Prentice-Hall, 1979).

[12] Mintzberg and Mintzberg.

[13] Assanvo, “Assessing the Multinational Joint Task Force against Boko Haram.”

[14] Mintzberg and Mintzberg, The Structuring of Organizations.

[15] David Galula and John A Nagl, Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice (New Delhi; Place of publication not identified: Pentagon Press ; Praeger Security International, 2010).

[16] Mintzberg and Mintzberg, The Structuring of Organizations.

[17] Mintzberg and Mintzberg.

[18] Tiffany F Hill, “An Analysis of the Organizational Structures Supporting PPBE within the Military Departments,” n.d., 151.

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