News / Africa

US Weighs Response to Kenya Mall Attack

US Weighs Response to Kenya Mall Attacki
X
October 04, 2013 10:08 PM
The U.S. reaction to the attack by al-Shabab militants on a Kenyan mall has been cautious. The U.S. military, which has a small presence in Kenya, is reviewing its tactics and the work its teams are doing to train and equip Kenyan forces to go after the group. VOA Pentagon correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Luis Ramirez
The U.S. reaction to the attack by al-Shabab militants on a Kenyan mall has been cautious.  The U.S. military, which has a small presence in Kenya, is reviewing its tactics and the work its teams are doing to train and equip Kenyan forces to go after the group.

The attack on Nairobi's Westgate mall is seen as retaliation for strikes by Kenyan forces on al-Shabab targets in Somalia.

Now, the U.S. is weighing how to respond and possibly boost assistance to the Kenyan army.

Defense analyst Seth Jones, testifying before a U.S. congressional panel, told lawmakers the approach should not end up helping al-Shabab to recruit more fighters.

“I think one thing we've got to be careful about is we don't encourage the Kenyans to overreact, conduct overt attacks within Somalia," said Jones.

Observers say images of Kenyans attacking Somalis with U.S. help would help al-Shabab gain sympathy - especially among young Somalis.

The U.S. has announced no plans to boost its presence in Kenya beyond the 150 U.S. troops who are now there, helping Kenyan forces build their capacity.

Al-Shabab has lost much of its territory in Somalia, but analyst Katherine Zimmerman says the Nairobi attack shows the U.S. and its partners have much more work to do.  

“The strategy is working in parts but it's not going to work long-term.  It's been able to hold off the rise of al-Shabab enough to keep it from growing in East Africa, but what we've seen is a resurgence there," said Zimmerman.

The Kenyans' response to the mall attack showed deficiencies in professionalism and command-and-control capabilities.

Reports say some first responders to the mall attack were seen looting rather than rescuing victims.  And there are complaints of disorganized rescue efforts and heavy-handed tactics that resulted in victims' deaths.

Analyst Vanda Felbab-Brown says those types of tactical and technical issues should be easy for U.S. trainers to fix.

“In some ways, figuring how you knock down a door is far easier than figuring how you get broad intelligence.  And the fact that the Kenyans struggled even with this tactical bit so much shows the real paucity of capacity despite our training so far," said Felbab-Brown.

For now, U.S. officials consider al-Shabab a regional threat with no real capacity to hit U.S. territory.  However, memories of the 1998 U.S. embassy attacks in East Africa by al-Qaida - then also considered only a regional threat - are bolstering calls for closer attention and a strong - albeit low-key - U.S. response.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs