• Videos emerged of Pakistani fighter pilots celebrating their downing of the Indian Air Force jet while hashtags calling for broader strikes from both sides trended.
• Kenya has no option therefore but to develop and expand its unconventional warfare capacity.
On February 14, 40 Indian Central Reserve Police Force troops were killed in an attack on their convoy travelling through Pulwama in the restive Kashmir.
The attack was claimed by a Pakistani terrorist group, Jaish e Mohammed. India responded with airstrikes on the JeM bases in Pakistan.
After the Indian Air Force strike on the terror bases in Balakot, Pakistan responded with its own airstrikes on Indian military positions.
The resulting airstrikes and counter airstrikes led to the downing of an Indian Air Force MiG 21 Bis. For the first time since the cold war, the world was staring at a potential nuclear war.
Social media users fanned the flames of war. Videos emerged of Pakistani fighter pilots celebrating their downing of the Indian Air Force jet while hashtags calling for broader strikes from both sides trended.
The war on social media was fiercer than the actual war on the ground. Interestingly, even ranking government officers were on Twitter calling for war!
While we focused on efforts to prevent the two nuclear powers from going into open hostilities, we missed the real shocker; the era of hybrid warfare is officially with us.
Hybrid warfare is a term used to describe the use of non-state forces to achieve national objectives of the client state. While the use of such forces (terror groups, mercenaries) dates back to ancient times, its modern version was used devastatingly in Sevastopol during the Crimean Crisis.
The attractiveness of such tactics is not lost to an observer. These groups offer the aggressor state deniability and keep their war cost low while stretching out the opposing forces and forcing them to incur heavy deployment and equipment costs.
One hopes that the KDF has taken note of the happenings in India. Never in our history have we been more exposed than we are now.
Any adversary that has a score to settle with Kenya need only contract the services of al Shabaab in Somalia to hit our forces under Amisom. Indeed there is worry within certain security circles, that the attack on El Adde camp was a case of hybrid warfare.
Because armies are trained to fight symmetrical warfare, the challenge now becomes responding to such attacks without raising the level of the conflict.
How do we hit back at an enemy in foreign territory without provoking retaliation by the host state? How do we avoid being baited into open war?
Kenya has no option therefore but to develop and expand its unconventional warfare capacity.
We must shed our fear of public engagement and capitalise on the power of social media. The KDF and NIS must learn to grab the narrative and steer it to Kenya’s advantage on social media.
We must also expand, equip and develop the capacity of our Special Forces. In conjunction with this, our diplomatic services must work in tandem with the security services.
An effective response is only as effective as the deniability that the diplomatic corps can offer for Kenya.
Globalisation and technology have changed the face of warfare. With the rise in social media usage and transnational terror organisations, the face of warfare has evolved. We hope that Kenya’s security apparatus is evolving with it.
Student of military history