The Togolese security forces’ lack of actionable and credible intelligence is fettering its response to the VEO attacks. On Friday, 10 February 2023, according to local news media reports, 31 civilians were slaughtered, and many more were taken hostage in the Kpendjal region. The country has recently seen a surge in violent attacks by violent extremist organizations, part of a broader recruitment drive across West Africa. A coordinated effort from regional extremist groups is behind the attacks, which have been occurring for over a year. There have been several violent attacks in Northern Togo in recent years. However, the exact number of attacks is difficult to determine as it varies depending on the source of the information as the Togolese security forces try to contain the situation.
According to the Global Terrorism Database, there were four terrorist incidents in Togo in 2019, all of which occurred in the northern region. These incidents resulted in 2 deaths and eight injuries. In 2020, there were three terrorist incidents in Togo, all of which occurred in the northern region, resulting in 3 fatalities and three injuries. Without sufficient intelligence on the grievances and demands of the attackers, it is difficult to respond effectively to the attack and protect citizens from future violence. Previous attempts at curbing the violence regionally have had limited success. This is especially true in Togo due to its lack of resources, effective intelligence collection, dissemination, and security dynamics with neighboring countries. Mr. Folahanmi Aina has identified specific warnings in Western media. He states, “Some warning signs for countries being vulnerable to violent extremism are high poverty rates, inequality, illiteracy, unemployment, corruption, weak institutions, and poor governance.” His assessment is generally valid. However, most analysts and researchers often fail to ask the following question: apart from the variables he identified in his review, are other exogenous forces instigating and abating these violent extremist organizations for their own benefit? However, that’s not the focus of this article. This article sets out to examine the capability of the Togolese security forces to gather credible intelligence to counter violent extremist organizations’ rapid advancement into the country via northern gates.
Intelligence refers to the ability to gather and analyze information, make informed decisions, and plan and execute actions likely to achieve specific goals or objectives in a complex and dynamic environment. It involves a combination of cognitive abilities, such as critical thinking, problem-solving, decision-making skills, and knowledge of the business, social, political, and economic factors that influence a particular situation or context. Strategic intelligence is often used in military and national security contexts, where it is important to anticipate and respond to threats or challenges. However, it is also relevant in business, politics, and other fields where long-term planning and decision-making are essential. Individuals or organizations may use various tools and techniques to develop strategic intelligence, such as scenario planning, risk analysis, competitive intelligence gathering, and trend analysis. They may also seek diverse perspectives and input from experts or stakeholders to inform their decision-making and planning processes.
Countries’ security forces analyze this intelligence to help civilian policymakers, and military leaders understand political and military trends worldwide, the sources of potential regional conflict, and emerging threats to the global security environment (Rand Corporation) and provide recommendations on how best to employ information-gathering techniques and technologies. The situation in northern Togo is fluid and challenges the security forces, especially when a country’s security forces and civilians are constantly maimed and bombarded, which is the case in northern Togo. The Togolese Government has extended the state of emergency in Northern Togo, close to the border with Burkina Faso, where violent extremists have been active. In response to increasing militant activities by extremist Islamist militant groups in the region, President Faure Gnassingbé visited the great savannah region and announced enhanced security measures along the border. The extremists’ attacks have continued and spread across Togo’s borders into other parts of West Africa, including Mali and Benin. This indicates a more extensive regional group operating beyond national boundaries that can act with impunity. As a result, a lack of actionable intelligence hinders governments like Togo from fully responding to or containing these attacks from extremist groups. The UN peacekeepers cannot provide any additional information as they have been unable to reach the site due to security concerns. The Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium (TRAC) is attempting to analyze the situation and identify any terrorist groups involved, but with limited resources, it is an uphill task. Without actionable intelligence about possible culprits and motives, it is difficult for Togolese authorities to respond effectively and prevent further attacks.
Terrorist organizations are exploiting the lack of intelligence to further their violent extremism and destabilize the region. Nation agencies, regional organizations, and other countries in West Africa have been working together to try and combat these evil machinations. The United Nations has also been a major supporter in trying to foster stability in this region and monitoring activities of terrorists throughout the region.
Recommendations and Analysis
There are several strategies that Togolese security forces can employ to combat violent extremist organizations: Intelligence Gathering: Security forces need to gather intelligence about the violent extremist organizations operating in Togo. They should be aware of their goals, methods, and tactics, as well as their strengths and weaknesses. This information can help the security forces to develop effective strategies to combat these organizations. Community Engagement: Security forces should engage with communities that are vulnerable to radicalization and violent extremism. This includes providing education, employment, and other opportunities to youth and addressing grievances that could make them susceptible to the messages of violent extremist organizations. Capacity Building: The security forces should be trained and equipped to deal with the threat of violent extremist organizations. This includes developing specialized units that are trained in counter-terrorism tactics, intelligence gathering, and community engagement.
Coordination: The security forces should work closely with other law enforcement agencies and international partners to share information and resources. This can help to improve their capacity to detect and respond to threats from violent extremist organizations. Identifying partners that the security forces can trust is critical because every country or partner has their national security interests before others. Political and Social Reforms: It is important to address the underlying political and social issues that may contribute to the rise of violent extremism. This can include promoting inclusive governance and improving access to essential services such as healthcare and education. The people of the Savannah region feel isolated because there is no development. The cost of living though minimal, but the average citizen finds it hard to put food on the table. The lack of government offices and services attracts disgruntled youth to engage in dubious activities. Combating violent extremism requires a comprehensive approach involving various actors, including security forces, communities, civil society, and government agencies. By working together and employing a range of strategies, Togolese security forces can improve their capacity to detect and respond to the threat posed by violent extremist organizations.
Specific Intelligence Gathering Strategies
Togolese security forces can gather information about violent extremist organizations using a variety of methods, including:
- Human Intelligence (HUMINT): This involves gathering information through direct contact with individuals who have information about violent extremist organizations, such as community members, former members of the organization, and informants.
- Technical Intelligence (TECHINT): This involves using technical means such as electronic surveillance, tracking devices, and cyber intelligence to gather information on the activities of violent extremist organizations.
- Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT): This involves gathering information from publicly available sources such as social media, news reports, and online forums.
- Imagery Intelligence (IMINT): This involves using satellite and aerial imagery to gather information on the location and activities of violent extremist organizations.
- Signals Intelligence (SIGINT): This involves gathering information through the interception of electronic communications, such as phone calls, emails, and text messages.
Togolese security forces need to use a combination of these methods to gather information. They should also respect human rights and privacy while gathering information and follow legal and ethical guidelines. In addition, they should coordinate with other law enforcement agencies and international partners to share information and resources and to avoid duplication of efforts.