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What Kenya must do to tame Al-Shabaab [Business Daily (Kenya)]
[May 11, 2014]

What Kenya must do to tame Al-Shabaab [Business Daily (Kenya)]

(Business Daily (Kenya) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) The impact of Al-Shabaab terrorist attacks has seen tourists cancelling their vacations to coastal resorts and less consumer activity at shopping malls or public events after last year's Westgate Shopping Mall attack.

The "usual suspects" across Kenya's political spectrum, self-styled security analysts and experts with dubious credentials are all repeating words from their tired scripts.

The opposition and civil society group called for the KDF troops to be withdrawn from Somalia and decried the abuse of human rights. Corruption was again identified as facilitating terrorism.

One anomaly that seemed to go unnoticed was that although polls showed that Kenyans wanted the KDF withdrawn from Sector Two in southern Somalia as did the "usual suspects" in academia, civil society and the political opposition, Al-Shabaab is planning to stay active in Kenya since our country's financial systems, links with the rest of the world, sophisticated logistics and abundant material has become their rear area for support needed to continue combat operations in Somalia.

Political leaders reject any withdrawal of the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) from Somalia as a sign of weakness or cowardice screaming Al- Shabaab will have won.

But the reality is that the KDF troops are legally committed to Amisom and a unilateral withdrawal of these troops would violate the government's commitment to international agreements, eliminate any possibility of reimbursement of costs incurred by the KDF since 2012 and essentially doom Amisom to outright defeat.

However, the KDF does not leave Amisom by physically withdrawing back into Kenya. In fact, the closure of the border with Somalia and the establishment of an all arms forward combat base at Wajir would enhance the probability that Al-Shabaab can be defeated.

Combat KDF ground combat elements are strung out in Sector Two in defensive positions with limited potential for aggressive action whenever Al-Shabaab constitutes company size units for attacks against our Somali allies or on vulnerable police posts and government facilities in Kenya.

The discovery of a vehicle in Mombasa loaded with military grade munitions assembled at an Al-Shabaab depot in Somalia and driven through Mandera – and the failure to locate at least another two similar vehicles – seems to have been forgotten because fortuitously the cheap mobile phone batteries failed to set off the explosives when Al-Shabaab dialled their numbers.

That was pure luck and an Al-Shabaab oversight not likely to be repeated.

The immediate solution to our current deteriorating security situation is to construct an all arms forwarding combat base for the KDF to withdraw into so as to be reconstituted into appropriate manoeuvre units capable of offensive action against Al-Shabaab in Sector Two.

Simultaneously the porous border can be closed using available materials (i.e. concertina/barbed wire), declaration of an exclusive zone with a curfew along the entire border, establishment of four to six properly manned reception centres to control entry and exit, laying of properly marked and mapped minefields to channel potential entrants towards these reception centres, and constant patrolling  24/7 initially by KDF elements along a military grade murram all-weather road within the exclusion zone.

Ultimately, Kenya needs to implement the National Police Services (NPS) Act, 2011 so that the KDF can hand over its activities within Kenya's borders to a reconstituted National Police Service Rapid Deployment Unit, supported by organised Reserve Units who are "married" to the regular RDU elements who are permanently assigned to border control.

In essence the Wajir Combat Base would remain the hub for all security related activities in NEP and would be under NPS Command and include National Intelligence Service, Kenya Revenue Authority, National Police Service – regular and reservists – not merely to fight Al Shabaab terrorists but to enable the County Authorities to roll back the spreading domestic insurgency.

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