There is a lot of relatively good news on the progress of the Nigerian army in it’s efforts to defeat Boko Haram. Here is where all of the nit-picking about the differences between IS and Boko Haram will mean even less. Boko Haram was lionized for it’s ability to take and hold territory. However, because of it’s primary driver as an internationally connected Islamist group that is ideologically driven, it will adapt to a new menu of tactics that resemble Al Shabaab. This is where the relationship beetween IS and Boko Haram becomes significant.
The signal is the re-brand as Islamic State in West Africa. Analysts were hard pressed to see the tactical advantages that the allegiance between IS and Boko Haram could afford the West African jihadist movement in Nigeria. The counter terrorism battle space in Nigeria will mutate as former Boko Haram fighters disperse and attempt to blend back in to the population. The question of whether al Shabaab will also pledge allegiance to IS will arise with more frequency in the coming months.
As Boko Haram (now Islamic State in West Africa) is forced to shift tactics, Boko Haram’s pledge to IS will pay off. When al Shabaab held territory they resembled Boko Haram. When they control territory they raise money like a state. When they are defeated militarily they operate like a terror group. The make up and the mission of these groups do not change. They all want to hold territory. That factor does change. When it does, each jihadist group adapts.