Saturday, 1 August 2015

How US Saved Kenya of National Embarrassment – CIA-Operated Drones Protected Kenyan Military Outposts in Gedo, Jubba and the Kenya-Somalia Border From Being Overrun by Al-Shabaab

One of the most obscured and least discussed topics regarding the war against al-Shabaab are the overt inadequacies of the Kenyan Military, and its palpable incapability to independently and effectively combat al-Shabaab. The Kenyan military has consistently been extremely guarded on its losses (sometimes resorting to outright lies and blatant fabrication of facts) in both Somalia and Kenya in its fated war against Al-Shabaab and its domestic affiliates. 
The deceitful photo released by the Kenyan Military as proof that it had killed Thomas Evans in Lamu in June 2015. Note a soldier wearing sandals – Kenyan Soldiers never wear sandals during official duty - in the photo thus indicating that this photo was taken in Jubba, Somalia - during a Joint KDF-Ras Kamboni Operation. This photo was selected for public release since it showed 11 dead Al-Shabaab terrorists.
Proposal Declined
On 5th July 2015, Ahmad Imaan Ali (alias Abu Zinnirah) and Mohammed Kuno met with members of Al-Shabaab’s Shura council to present their formal proposal to conduct a series of attacks inside Kenya that were intended to disrupt the logistical substructure of the Kenyan military along the frontier region spanning the Kenyan counties of Wajir, Mandera, Lamu and Garissa, as well as the adjoining Gedo and Jubba regions of Somalia. The Shura council promised to deliberate on the issue before presenting the proposal to the Abu Ubaidah and his military high command.
Days later, the proposal was turned down as Al-Shabaab was facing a new threat in its South-Central sectors - mainly emanating from an influx of over 3,000 Ethiopian soldiers. Nonetheless, Imaan Ali and his counterpart were allowed to assemble a provisional assault force that could be used to defend Buur Hajje from a possible AMISOM attack.
Offensives Launched
The Ethiopians would wage a week-long offensive on Al-Shabaab positions in Bay, Bakool, Gedo and Galmudug regions where Al-Shabaab ingeniously adapted its mobile warfare tactics to ground - and sometimes suppress - a conventionally stronger army. Al-Shabaab ended up retreating from most of its strongholds in South-Central and South-Western Somalia as Kenyan troops alongside its Somali allies launched a simultaneous offensive which coincided with the Ethiopian offensives. Nevertheless, Al-Shabaab still proved itself a versatile and committed nemesis as it overran areas where it had been pushed out a few days earlier.
Moreover, the jihadists subjected the Ethiopian and Kenyan soldiers to constant ambushes and were even able to besiege several Ethiopian military outposts in Galmudug areas thus forcing the Ethiopian soldiers to retreat and hand over certain areas to Al-Shabaab.
Meeting in Bardheere
On 15th July 2015, Ismail Jabhad arrived in Bardheere  with a request that Abu Zinnirah’s proposal be executed in order to relieve Al-Shabaab of the pressure it faced in its southern sectors. Abu Zinnirah’s proposal showed a marked ingenuity and operational novelty which if it had been executed would have derailed AMISOM operations; as well as enabled Al-Shabaab to overrun Kenyan military outposts in Gedo and Jubba regions of Somalia thus paving way for a particularly large contingent of Al-Shabaab militants to cross the Kenya-Somalia border and link up with its cells in North-Eastern Kenya from where they could launch an offensive in Kenya. The proposal was heartily supported by Mohammed Kuno and Abdirahim Mohammed Warsame, Amniyaat’s head of operations.
The Author would not discuss the details of Abu Zinnirah’s proposal except to mention that it involved using indirect artillery fire to “soften” its targets before sending in waves of lean assault teams to incapacitate the defenders before eventually overrunning the base, as Ambush Units waylaid the retreating troops. The fact that the plan excluded suicide units was perplexing; and it deeply worried the Americans who had got wind of it through its spy network in the region. The Kenyan military was in turn extremely anxious of Al-Shabaab overrunning its bases in Jubba region from where they could easily enter into Kenya. More worryingly was the fact that Al-Shabaab had managed to construct highly effective IEDs including C4-based Magnetic-Strap bombs – most of them remote-controlled or timed explosives - that could wreck utter devastation if deployed and used in crowded targets within Kenya.
Al-Shabaab had also replenished its stocks of heavy weaponry in June and July 2015 - mainly by overrunning AMISOM bases and/or ambushing AMISOM’s supply convoys. In Leego, Al-Shabaab had captured enough weapons to suitably arm its nascent Sheikh Abu Zubeyr Battalion with colossal firepower for such a small unit. Some of the weapons captured during Al-Shabaab raids on AMISOM bases were allocated to the Kenyan jihadist contingents based in Gedo and Jubba regions; and were expected to be used in fighting Kenyan troops in those regions.
Fatal Drone Strike
On 16th July 2015, Ismail Jabhad had finalized his meeting with the commanders of Al-Shabaab and was tasked alongside Ismail Dheere to lay a defensive strategy for curtailing AMISOM’s movements into Middle Shabelle region from Jubba and Gedo regions. On the same day, Mohammed Warsame and Mohammed Kuno left Bardheere from Burkhaba on a decrepit unarmed pickup truck. Jabhad and Dheere lingered around waiting for an armed escort in order to leave the town.
They never left the town as in the early hours of Wednesday morning, a CIA operated drone identified and located an armed vehicle in the locality and promptly fired on it. Inside the vehicle were Ismail Jabhad, Ismail Dheere and three bodyguards. They were all killed. By the dawn of 17th July 2015, the US confirmed that it had conducted a drone strike targeting Mohammed Kuno - as the Kenyan government jubilantly stated that Mohammed Kuno had been killed in the drone strike. Kuno was nowhere near the attack scene, and was spotted later in Southern Somalia assured and confident that the US would never imperil Al-Shabaab survival in Somalia.
Sustained Drones Strikes
Fearful that Al-Shabaab would overrun Kenyan military outposts near the Kenya-Somalia border, and even infiltrate into Kenya, the Pentagon approved of sustained drone strikes to be conducted along the entire extent of the Kenya-Somalia border zone. The Kenyan military had proved itself incapable to averting Al-Shabaab infiltration into Kenya; and it had also suffered fatalities in Lamu county, Kenya – where Al-Shabaab had established operational bases impervious to Kenyan military operations. Such inadequacies on the part of the Kenyan military, and the fact that the US president was due in Nairobi in a week’s time convinced the US to override the Kenyan military and take full control of the security operations along the Kenya-Somalia border. In Somalia, the US greatly assisted the beleaguered AMISOM troops to push Al-Shabaab out of its core urban territories. Surprisingly, Al-Shabaab suffered minimal casualties during these operations and effectively retreated with its arms cache intact and its core fighting units preserved. No single Al-Shabaab military commander or member of the Shura council has been killed since 17th July 2015 to date.
On 18th July 2015; an extremely confident Abu Ubaidah announced that Al-Shabaab has released a significant portion of its East African Contingents, and redeployed them to Kenya in order to take the fight to Nairobi. From 18th-27th July 2015, the US conducted a daily campaign of drone strikes on suspected Al-Shabaab positions, though al-Shabaab suffered minimal to almost nil losses in these attacks; but, the drone strikes nonetheless compelled the jihadists to shelf their plans for that moment.
Resurgence of Al-Shabaab
The US has fought Al-Shabaab in Somalia using proxies - mainly Kenyan and Ethiopian governments as well as the deeply unpopular externally-imposed SFG (Somali Federal Government) based in Mogadishu; alongside contemptible allies ranging from Somali Warlords, highly-sectarian Confessional militias (mainly Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaaca) and Secessionist paramilitaries including the Ras Kamboni Brigades. AMISOM has principally served to stabilize the beleaguered SFG as well as extend its zone of control at the expense of Al-Shabaab.
Overall, it is considered that over 45,000 troops alongside US Special forces and CIA agents are fighting Al-Shabaab whose combined strength does not exceed 12,000 troops (including affiliated organizations). Nonetheless, Al-Shabaab has been able to absorb and sustain numerous offensives without bulging, imploding, collapsing or disintegrating into factions thus showcasing its unity of purpose and ideological coherence which glues its factions together into a cohesive and unified fighting force cognizant of its objectives and aspirations.
By 30th July 2015; Al-Shabaab had begun to concede non-priority areas to AMISOM and its allies as it mercilessly punished Ethiopian troops in Galmudug, Bay and Bakool regions as well as entered Kenya to kill and injure Kenya troops. Moreover, Al-Shabaab also overran positions held by the Somali National Army in its path to ascendancy in South-Central Somalia.
Al-Shabaab Returns to Lamu, Kenya
Unable to extend its Ramadhan Offensive into neither Kenya nor launching a wide-scale attack in Kenya during Obama’s stay in the country; Al-Shabaab shelved its plans awaiting the departure of the US President from Kenya. On 29th July 2015, Al-Shabaab terrorists ambushed a Kenyan military convoy in Lamu County, and inflicted casualties on the Kenyan troops. The Kenyan government alleged that it killed two Al-Shabaab militants while it suffered five injured – highly improbable considering that a military truck was completely destroyed by an IED and the attackers were able to melt away from the scene without being apprehended besides the fact that the Kenyan military was non-committal on its statement regarding whether it had the bodies of the terrorists in its custody. Nonetheless, this ambush proves the inability of the Kenyan military to protect its border especially considering the fact that Al-Shabaab has attacked Kenyan troops in the area in about five different occasions.
In Coastal Kenya, Al-Shabaab has proved itself capable of combating the Kenyan army and inflicting casualties on it. A notable and interesting fact is that the Kenyan government maintains that only 13 Kenyan soldiers have been killed in Somalia since 2011, while Western intelligence agencies place the cumulative losses of the Kenyan military in Lamu County at 20 dead since the beginning of June 2015.

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