News / Africa

Is Kenya Battling al-Shabab Alone?

Kenyan troops fuel a supplies helicopter near the Somalia border, Oct. 18, 2011.
Kenyan troops fuel a supplies helicopter near the Somalia border, Oct. 18, 2011.
Gabe Joselow

As Kenyan fighters push into Somalia in pursuit of al-Shabab militants, speculation is rising about which foreign forces may be backing the operation. No nations have admitted involvement, but local and international media reports suggest the army isn't going it alone.

Kenyan military spokesman Emmanuel Chirchir was quoted as saying there are "certainly other actors in this theater," and an official Army statement said French naval ships took part in shelling the key al-Shabab stronghold of Kismayo, a claim Nairobi officials backed away from after French diplomats refuted the allegation and asked local newspapers to issue corrections.

The United States has had close relations with Kenya's military and provided logistical support and training to its armed forces in the past. Asked if the U.S. is providing support for the Kenyan military operation, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson says the U.S. hasn't "provided Kenya with any cross-border assistance."

"We were not privy to their decision to go across the border," he said in a recent interview. "It is their decision and not something that we were consulted about."

But former Kenyan Army Major Imaana Laibuta isn't so easily convinced.

"I should speculate that the level of cooperation that existed before the operation is still going on," he said. "I'd be surprised if there isn't any financial and material support being extended to Kenya by the western nations and in particular, America."

Kenya has about 6,000 troops involved in the operation, and Laibuta says it will take three times that number to be successful, suggesting it would be logical for Kenya to actively seek operational assistance for this operation in particular.

"In any case we don't expect America and western nations to support Kenya openly," he said, explaining that foreign partners would have to remain silent or risk angering Somalis opposed to any kind of western intervention. "They are really loathed in that region, so any direct participation would be totally counter-productive."

Foreign armies in Somalia have faced intense hostility in recent years, most notably the U.S. in the early 1990s and Ethiopia in 2006. While the dramatic 1993 U.S. raid in Mogadishu became a media event, Roger Middleton, a Horn of Africa researcher at Chatham House in London, says Ethiopian efforts to defeat the Islamic Courts Union -- an administration of Islamist courts that rivaled the nascent Transitional Federal Government (TFG) -- has done tremendous long-term damage.

"If you look at ... the most recent intervention, you see the Ethiopians going in to remove the Islamic Courts Union and actually when they left, two-and-a-bit years later, they had got rid of the Islamic Courts Union for sure, but what they'd left in its place was al-Shabab, a far more radical and far greater threat in many ways to the region," he said.

Al-Shabab, which had been the military wing of the Islamic Courts Union, used the Ethiopian invasion as a way to rally support for its own jihadist cause, and some fear they could use Kenya's incursion to regain power.

Kenya may need the backing of Somalia's Transitional Federal Government to secure the country, but the TFG has given mixed signals about whether it supports the operation. While the prime minister has been encouraging, Somalia's President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed has opposed the incursion, saying this week that only African Union forces have a mandate to fight in Somalia.

If Kenya has allies in this fight, it appears they have chosen to remain silent.

You May Like

Photogallery Early Nigeria Results Show Buhari Leading; Tampering Concerns Mount

One local group monitoring polls is concerned politicians might use security agencies to 'fiddle with the election collation process' at state level More

UN: 7,300 Civilians Killed in Boko Haram Insurgency

A senior UN humanitarian official tells the United Nations Security Council 1,000 people have been killed this year More

Turkish President Warns Iran About Trying to Dominate Middle East

Warning comes amid growing concerns inside Turkey that it will be sucked into a sectarian conflict with its neighbor More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More