Charting Boko Haram's Rapid Decline
After being declared the world’s deadliest terrorist organization in 2015, Boko Haram is a menace in retreat. As a whole, the conflict is on pace to claim about 3,500 lives in 2016, a third the number of lives lost in 2015 and the conflict’s lowest total since 2012. As illustrated in Figure 1, during the second quarter of 2016, the group was responsible for 244 killings, the lowest in close to five years.
A close look at the data, drawn from Johns Hopkins University’s Nigeria Social Violence Research Project, reveals four key factors behind Boko Haram’s decline: a failure to spread much beyond Nigeria’s extreme northeast, a loss of popular support, poor strategic thinking by the insurgents, and improved counterinsurgency operations. Though these factors have led to a decisive shift in momentum against the group, the conflict is far from over. Winning the war will require better regional coordination, the re-integration of former militants, and a systematic plan to re-build the northeast, where thousands are currently on the brink of starvation.
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