DEFEATING AL SHABAAB

Time for strategy review in Kenya's war on terror

The current terrorism crisis situation in the country calls for a serious national awakening

In Summary

• If the al Shabaab problem is yet to be exterminated from its source in Somalia, then it is only wise for Nairobi to restrategise and redeploy its troops to Northeastern

• Equally, there is a necessity for Kenya to use its intelligence to map out the human terrain in all the terror hotspot areas in the country such as Northeastern and Lamu

Time for strategy review in Kenya's war on terror
Time for strategy review in Kenya's war on terror
Image: OZONE

The terrorism rampages of al Shabaab in Kenya has entered the ninth year with no sign of relenting as it is evidenced by the sustained series of terror attacks in Lamu and Northeastern.

This disturbing and unending spate of attacks comes on the background of Kenya's active incursion in Somalia since October 16, 2011, in an apparent defence of our territorial integrity. This followed abductions of foreign aid workers and tourists by suspected al Shabaab terrorists.

But the biting effects of terrorism in the country urgently call for a swift review of Nairobi's strategy in the war on terror: More focus and resources should be channelled to curb the terror menace internally through asymmetrical warfare.

 

The geopolitical conflict between Somalia and Kenya, especially regarding the maritime border and Jubaland, has proved to be a huge setback for the joint resolve by the two neighbouring states to defeat Al Shabaab.

Additionally, the simmering conflict between the two states has practically demonstrated the dangers of overstaying in foreign battlefields as it begets hostility from the host country and partners.

This is what America experienced in Afghanistan.

This is perhaps why Kenya should be reminded that it went to Somalia nine years ago to find, fix and finish al Shabaab in the shortest time possible, and not to make enemies.

If the al Shabaab problem is yet to be exterminated from its source in Somalia, then it is only wise for Nairobi to restrategise and redeploy its troops to Northeastern, which has historically been a security buffer against Somalia since colonial times.

Equally, there is a necessity for Kenya to use its intelligence to map out the human terrain in all the terror hotspot areas in the country such as Northeastern and Lamu.

This will help in taking stock of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) in human intelligence gathering and security partnerships, and thus fix the vital security information gaps that inhibit action.

 

The critical intelligence gathered can thereafter be used to plan and carry out neat special operations in the country as well as to usefully strengthen partnerships with non-state actors such as local NGOS and community and religious leaders.

This kind of asymmetrical partnership was behind both the success of the 2007 'Sons of Iraq' or 'Anbar Awakening' that significantly diminished the menace of ISIS fighters as well as the early 2002 US covert action against Taliban and al Qaida in Afghanistan.

Henry Crumpton, who is a former senior CIA officer with a lot of experience in dealing with African rebels and Afghan tribal leaders, revealed that only a small group of about 100 CIA officers and 300 US special forces jointly managed to =hunt down and dismantle the Taliban and Al-Qaida fighters in Afghanistan after forging a successful working alliance with locals.

According to the former decorated spy, the failure to sustain that initial, wonderful asymmetrical alliance is the reason why America has been entangled to Afghanistan for many years with huge resources and costs.

More importantly, the current terrorism crisis situation in the country calls for a serious national awakening to vanquish al Shabaab and all of its unwanted attention and aims.

Shabaab's continued and inexcusable killings and destructions inside Kenya have become intolerable. It will thus be immoral and improper to not collectively revolt against the terror group.

Again, the terror attacks in the vast Northeastern region and Lamu county seriously amounts to territorial pissing for which Kenya should not allow.

It is outrageous, for example, to see how al Shabaab is trying to dictate to us who can live, work or study in Northeastern.

This is a vicious plan that is tacitly heading for shelving and eliding the area so that it can continue to wallow in poverty, illiteracy, grievance and insecurity to ultimately help the terror group to in future gain massive number of cannon fodders, sympathizers and safe havens for terror operations, training and logistical support.

Never have also Kenyans seen an enemy so open in their sadistic vision of bothers to take away the national peace, development and multiculturalism as al Shabaab has done for over a decade.

For instance, in the nine years that they have been bothering my town, Garissa, the area moved from being the safest town in East and Central Africa as was charted by the International Police Organization in 2010 to simply one of the most feared areas in 2020.

Equally painful to watch has been al Shabaab's constant falsity to associate their evil actions with God or Allah and Islam. That is one of the worst insults to the Islamic faith, which is essentially based on the principles of safeguarding one's and others' religion, life, mind, progeny and property.

Their very harm to Muslims was exposed in the recent data released by Armed Conflict Location Event Data group, which revealed that the vast majority of the 4,000 people who were killed by al Shabaab over the decade were Muslims and Somalis in Somalia.

This should demystify the lie that these reprobates are supermen for Somalis and Muslims.

It is, therefore, time for the government to review the way it is fighting terrorism locally and abroad. It should also work on how to make Kenyans own the fight against al Shabaab.

That way we would be able to significantly reclaim our stature, security, values and territorial integrity as a sovereign nation.