AFRICOM confirms U.S. responded to al-Shabaab attack in Kenya

Elizabeth Howe
January 24, 2020 - 9:50 am
U.S. Army Soldiers, assigned to the East Africa Response Force (EARF), 101st Airborne Division, sit aboard a C-130J Super Hercules, assigned to the 75th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, waiting to takeoff at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti

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On Jan. 5, two U.S. contractors and a U.S. soldier were killed in an al-Shabaab attack at the Kenyan Defense Force Military Base in Manda Bay, Kenya. The attack was largely overshadowed by the Iranian missile attack on U.S. personnel in Iraq that followed soon after.

Extremists attack Kenya military base, 3 Americans killed

U.S. forces and Kenyan Defense forces repelled the attack, killing five al-Shabaab terrorists and repelling an estimated several dozen more with no further losses to U.S. or Kenyan personnel. 

This Thursday, two weeks later, U.S. Africa Command released a statement shedding light on how the U.S. responded. 

"While numbers are still being verified, it is estimated that several dozen al-Shabaab fighters were repelled," the AFRICOM statement read. "Because of the size of the Kenyan base, clearance and security operations continued for several more hours to ensure the entire base was secure."

However, this response was compared to the actions the U.S. took against Iran following the Iranian killing of a U.S.contractor in Iraq. The strike on Iranian general Qasem Soleimani was seen, in part, as retaliation for the U.S. contractor's death.

23-year-old Army specialist from Illinois killed in Kenya attack

During a Pentagon press briefing on Jan. 16, Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Jonathan Hoffman was asked why the U.S. did not strike back against Kenya as they did against Iran. 

"There were a number of reasons for the strike on Soleimani. You mentioned one of them being the death of the U.S. citizen in Iraq," Hoffman said. "Another part of the Soleimani strike, though, is to look back at that extensive history and also look at the fleeting intelligence and the intelligence we had at the time that enabled us to act."

"I can't speak to future operations against al-Shabaab but I know that right now in Kenya we are working with our partners in Kenya and we're working with our forces there to degrade that threat," Hoffman added. 

Hoffman did not disclose at the time that, in addition to the responsive attack by U.S. and Kenyan forces that killed 5 al-Shabaab terrorists, on Jan. 5th the U.S. also deployed the 101st Airborne Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team. 

“The 101st Airborne Division Soldiers, currently fulfilling the role as the East Africa Response Force, provide a unique capability to the combatant commander. They offer speed, agility, and security to handle contingency actions. This was demonstrated after the attack in Manda Bay, Kenya,” Army Col. Dave Foley, deputy commander of operations for the 101st, said in an official statement.

"An initial assessment indicates that a timely and effective response to the attack reduced the number of casualties and eliminated the potential for further damage,” an AFRICOM press release reads.

The command did not disclose how long the unit would be deployed to the region.

“The attack at Manda Bay demonstrates that al-Shabaab remains a dangerous and capable enemy,” said U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, AFRICOM commander. “They are a menace to the people of East Africa and U.S. national interests there and their sights are set on eventually attacking the U.S. homeland. It is important that we continue to pursue al-Shabaab and prevent their vision from becoming a reality.”

U.S. forces in Kenya are primarily responsible for training Kenyan forces. There are fewer than 350 Department of Defense personnel in Kenya. 

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