Friday, 25 November 2011

Kenya Al-Shabaab War: will Kenya Succeed where others failed?


Kenya Soldiers on Ground in Somalia. Will she tame Al Shabaab?

Will Kenya succeed where others failed? This question has been asked by many a writer in the last one month. Depending on where one comes from, the answer has been to show that defeating a rag-tag army called Al shabaab will be an herculean task for the Kenyan Military.

The Kenyan defense Forces invaded Somalia on October 15th 2011, in a bid to destroy this terrorist group which was accused of breaching Kenyan territorial integrity.  It was blamed for kidnapping tourists from Isolated Kenya tourist resorts which was a threat to her US$1 billion- a-year industry.

The attack has spawned a series of questions among them: what was Kenya’s agenda and whether it will succeed where others failed?

Granted. Ethiopia invaded Somalia in 2006 and was humbled by the militias. Two years later, Ethiopia withdrew its forces, citing the heavy cost of keeping soldiers in Somalia. More than 10 years earlier, the Mighty US was humbled by the same militias. Two Black Hawk choppers were shot down and 18 servicemen killed.  The bodies of several soldiers were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. This led to a hasty withdrawal.

This scenario, coupled with the fact the Kenyan Military was once termed a “career army” which was never involved in any war led to the question raised at the beginning. 

However, the Kenyan invasion enjoys several advantages never enjoyed by the previous invaders.  For a start, Al Shabaab and all such similar militias are confined to the south of the country.

The North, including the Capital Mogadishu, is in the control of the TFG (the transitional Government Forces) and the Amisom (The African Peace keeping force). The Porous Kenya border is controlled by the Kenya Army.

In the south, Al Shabaab’s stronghold, the sea including entry into the port of Kismayu is controlled by the Kenya navy. And the Air space is controlled by the Kenya Air force  which has been softening the targets with frequent bombing runs. This means that Al-Shabaab is effectively isolated.

In addition the Kenya military enjoys advantages that the previous “invaders” of Somalia never enjoyed.  Unlike the Americans and the Ethiopians, Kenyans speak Kiswahili, a language spoken by a majority of locals in the areas it has invaded. This makes it easy for Kenya to pacify the locals and win their hearts since their intentions are easily understood.

What has been the operational effect of this virtual Isolation? Both and the US battled the militias in Mogadishu, leaving other parts of Somalia, particularly Kismayu and the porous Kenya-Somali Border un Policed. This allowed the militias to receive arms, and export contraband to finance its war with the US and Ethiopia.

The Kenyan defense forces on the other hand, began by chocking off Al-Shabaab's lifeline. The Kismayu port, through which Al-shabaab could import contraband goods and weaponry, has been effectively blockaded by the Kenya Navy.

Two, the Porous Kenya-Somali border through which Al-shabaab and its supporters in Nairobi smuggled the contraband into Eastleigh Estate in Nairobi has also been cut off by the Army which is moving South wards towards Kismayu.  In the air, the Kenya Air force has effective control

We can therefore conclude that Al shabaab's sources of finance have been effectively shut down. This has reduced its effectiveness as a fighting force. And analysts in Nairobi do not give Al-Shabaab much chance against the Kenya Defense Forces in the face of this deadly strategy.

Finally either as a result of the strategy or as part thereof, the Kenya defense forces appears to be herding Al-shabaab together for the final assault. To date, Al shabaab has been uprooted from various strongholds in Southern Somalia and are being herded South-wards toward Afmadow and Kismayu.

So we may ask will Kenya succeed where others failed. The answer is a firm YES. Al shabaab low on funds, arms and hiding places is something of a sitting duck.  So far it has suffered huge loses whenever it engages the Kenyans; This means that they are also running short of fighters.  And since all re-supply routes are cut off, the probability of re-arming or even training more soldiers is close to zero. My Prophecy, the final assault whenever it comes, will be just that, a final one. There will be no-al-shabaab after that!

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