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Anderson, Jacob McKnight; Kenya at war: This article reviews the background to the invasion, Operation Linda Nchi, and the prosecution of the war by Kenya’s Defence Forces up to the capture of the city of Kismayo and the contest to control its lucrative port. The second section discusses Al-Shabaab’s response, showing how the movement has reinvented itself to take the struggle into Kenya. We conclude that while the military defeat of Al-Shabaab in southern Somalia seems inevitable, such a victory may become irrelevant to Kenya’s ability to make a political settlement with its Somali and wider Muslim communities at home.
On 16 OctoberKenya’s armed forces invaded southern Somalia in the midst of a severe local famine and a regional drought. Their purpose was to capture the port city of Kismayo and to crush the Al-Shabaab Islamist militia. Al-Shabaab has reacted with gun, bomb, and grenade attacks against targets in Nairobi, Garissa, and other Kenya towns, most notorious among them the assault upon Nairobi’s prestigious Westgate shopping mall.
How long can Kenya sustain this war, and can victory be ensured? Yet, despite its defeats, this Islamist organization remains a potent and dangerous force: This article analyses the impact of the Kenyan invasion. It is argued that, far from sweeping Al-Shabaab into the sea, the intervention in southern Somalia has fuelled wider political dissent within Kenya. Building on the extensive literature on eastern Africa’s recent jihadist struggles, 7 we emphasize the capacity of the Islamist group to adapt and transform.
The flexibility and responsiveness of Al-Shabaab in the past has transcended its internal factionalisms between nationalist and internationalist jihadi elements, enabling it to react speedily to opportunities, both economic and political, without allowing ideology to impede its progress. Drawing upon studies of the politics of Kenya’s Muslim communities, 12 we suggest that Al-Shabaab is likely to exploit the deeply rooted disaffection amongst the peoples of the Kenya coast and north-east in gaining recruits to its banner.
These affiliates may only see Al-Shabaab’s black standard as a temporary flag of convenience, but that may be enough to incubate and evolve an Al-Shabaab-led insurgency within Kenya. The article begins with a review of Operation Linda Nchi, which saw the Kenyans capture the port of Kismayo. The implication of our analysis, discussed in the concluding section, is that Al-Shabaab is reinventing itself to exploit the wider sense of economic and social grievance amongst Kenya’s disadvantaged Muslim populations in its north-eastern and coastal provinces.
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The resilience of Al-Shabaab presents the key challenge: More than a year before the Kenyans rolled across the border, the country’s foreign minister tried to gain US support for the invasion plan, but was curtly rebuffed. The Americans doubted that such a mission could be successful, and anyway preferred other, more indirect approaches to the Al-Shabaab problem. According to Bruton and Williams, three factors conspired to determine Kenya’s invasion: Since at leastthe Kenyans had advanced a plan to infiltrate southern Somali with trained militia to undermine Al-Shabaab’s influence and build an internal force against them.
The United States trained elite Kenyan troops for this task, helping the country to establish a Ranger-style fighting force.
Azania is also an alternative name that some Kenyan politicians use for Jubaland.
In Aprilhaving completed training with the Kenyan army near Isiolo, the militia led by Ghandi and made up of Somali soldiers from Ogadeni clans began operations in southern Somalia. But in adopting surrogate forces, the Kenyans saw themselves as following the Ethiopian example: For Ethiopia, as for Kenya, foreign policy in Somalia has a strong domestic dimension — even though the two countries often disagree about how this should be managed.
Kenya’s invasion went ahead without the support of its most prominent Western allies, and without a common agreement with Ethiopia, which shares a border with Jubaland. As invasion turned into occupation, this would become a critical issue, but within a month of crossing the border the Kenyans appeared to have engineered broad-based diplomatic support. It was always the intention of the KDF’s senior commanders that they would join the peacekeeping force.
It also gave the invasion far stronger international legitimacy. The KDF’s commander-in-chief, Karangi, was circumspect: Key success factors or indicators will be in the form of a highly degraded Al-Shabaab capacity. Wider economic issues also loomed large.
On 8 NovemberThe Guardian reported that the Kenyan invasion was intended to secure the coastal region and to establish Lamu as a development port. Having established the political and economic contexts of the intervention, let us consider the military aspect.
Two Kenyan battalions, with armoured vehicles and air support, were deployed to Somalia at the start of Operation Linda Nchi. Additional troops have entered the country since then; by July there were 4, Kenya soldiers in southern Somalia and the Kenya navy was patrolling Jubaland’s coastline. Kenyan air strikes sought to dislodge Al-Shabaab fighters from key towns, including Afmadow, and targeted training camps and supply bases, but with only gwidi success.
The Kenyans progressed to within five kilometres of Afmadow five days into the invasion, where they later linked up with Madobe’s Ras Kamboni forces and the Somali National Army SNA in early November, but it would be several months before they finally wrenched the town from Al-Shabaab control. There is little information on casualties and costs of the operations, with the Kenyan press preferring upbeat coverage of the mtaano in the early months.
Though Al-Shabaab is known to receive funding from wealthy backers in the Muslim world, 42 control of the lucrative trade through Mmtaani busy port was critical to their strong financial position. Al-Shabaab takes rents from the producers of charcoal in the areas it controls, taxing gadi vehicles bringing bagged charcoal to Kismayo, and also taxing exports leaving the port.
Since this trade had grown markedly, despite international efforts to close the port. Many vessels discharging legal cargoes at Mogadishu afterwards docked in Kismayo to load illegal charcoal, to avoid returning from the Somali coast unladen.
The final assault, Operation Sledge Hammer, commenced at dawn on 28 September with an amphibious landing on Kismayo’s northern beach — nearly a year after the Kenyans first crossed the border. There was little resistance, and the port was easily secured. Having made an orderly retreat from the port, Al-Shabaab regrouped at strategic points throughout Jubaland and the Shebelle Valley.
Al-Shabaab attacks gaivi southern Somalia increased over the six months following the capture of Kismayo. From October to Decemberthere were attacks, including 70 combat engagements, 39 grenade attacks and 43 assassinations of Somalis believed to mtazni assisting the invaders or obstructing Al-Shabaab. In the next three months, to the end of Marchthis increased to attacks, of which 78 were combat engagements, 26 grenade attacks, and 52 assassinations.
Intelligence gathered in early suggested that Al-Shabaab’s 5,strong militia was still largely intact and fully operational, that they had stockpiled weapons in anticipation of mounting mtani retaliatory assault once international forces had reduced in intensity, and that the ntaani of Kismayo made no difference to their capacity to function in southern Somalia.
An explanation of how Al-Shabaab maintained their strongholds in southern Somalia, and their fighting force, despite the loss of Kismayo, can be found in the mtani behaviour of the KDF and its allies. Madobe represented a strong leader with links to the local Ogadeni traders who dominated the economy of Kismayo, having for many years past gxidi illicit trade throughout southern Somalia and into Kenya. Taxes were paid to Al-Shabaab in this trade also.
Kenya at war: Al-Shabaab and its enemies in Eastern Africa | African Affairs | Oxford Academic
Although the seizure of Kismayo was supposed to close down these revenue streams, only days after taking the port the KDF allowed one ship and gaici dhows into the dock to offload cargoes of cement and sugar, and to begin loading charcoal.
Over the next month, Gaii pressure mtxani to reopen the port. Evidence assembled by the UN shows that 20 vessels left the port in November loaded withsacks of charcoal, and 22 vessels left in December withsacks. Kismayo’s charcoal business is handled by around 40 traders, many of them long-standing associates of Al-Shabaab. Since the Kenyan capture of the port, new charcoal supplies have flooded in, mostly from the Badade district along the Kenya border.
This area is controlled by Al-Shabaab, which taxes the trucks leaving Badade at Buula Xaaji checkpoint. The most recent report of the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia shows that the illegal trade through Kismayo continued in similar fashion mtaank the period from July to May It is conceded that the actual trade could be double this.
The architecture of the charcoal business has remained intact, therefore, beyond the fall of Kismayo, although its revenues are now divided three ways — between Al-Shabaab, the Ras Kamboni forces who run the port of Kismayo, and the Kenya business interests facilitated by the KDF. Instead of diminishing Al-Shabaab’s resources, Kenya’s invasion appears to have made them richer. Madobe’s tenure in Kismayo has also brought political problems.
An IGAD-sponsored initiative to create Jubaland as a federal state of Somalia was launched in July with the backing of Mogadishu and the support of several southern Somalia parties.
When, in MayMadobe declared himself head of a new Jubaland state, claiming to have local support, Mogadishu refused to recognize his claim — seeing these events as nothing more than clan factionalism. He returned in August as commander of Hizbuk-Islam with the Al-Shabaab forces that recaptured Kismayo, surviving only a few months until his Ras Kamboni Brigade split into factions and those affiliated with Al-Shabaab expelled him from the port.
In reaction to Madobe’s declaration of the new state of Jubaland, a rival claimant emerged. Like Madobe, Hiiraale is a man with an interesting past. Though Mtaain managed to regain control of Kismayo in earlyafter a short but severe bout of fighting the port decisively fell to the forces of Al-Shabaab in August For the next four years, Hiiraale was held by the Ethiopians at Dolow, though whether this was imprisonment or protective custody is difficult to discern.
Though it is overly simplistic to see either Madobe or Hiiraale merely as clients of Kenya and Ethiopia, there is little doubt that the Ethiopians have supported Hiiraale as a means to challenge Madobe and the Kenyan strategy. Under the terms of the agreement, Madobe was given authority to head a Jubaland administration for a period of two years, but management of Mtazni port and airport was to be transferred to the Federal Government after six months.
The agreement allows for Madobe’s military forces to be integrated with the Somalia National Army. In all of these political manipulations clan politics have been to the fore, shaping the actions of all parties, including Mogadishu and the Ethiopians. This was a necessary decision, welcomed by the Kenyans, but it gave Al-Shabaab valuable time to regroup and reorganize.
As Paul Williams notes, these offensive actions accurately reflected the reality of what was needed on the ground. It therefore remains to be seen if sufficient resources can be mustered to sustain the surge.
Without more resources, and especially without the helicopters they have so frequently requested, 74 the KDF will be reluctant to take the fight to their enemy. It is not entirely clear what provoked the violent bloodletting that occurred within the ranks of the movement in Junealthough there has been speculation about the long-running disagreements between those of a nationalist persuasion and those who more firmly advocate a jihadist message, while recent disaffection among foreign fighters within the mujahideen has been well documented.
The purge leaves Al-Shabaab as a smaller, but not necessarily weaker movement.
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With its income still apparently secure, and with 5, fighters in the field, the movement is more united and less vulnerable. Godane’s control appeared undisputed at this point, with the movement showing no sign of diminished capacity.
The purge may thus have had less to do with ideology than with the survival of the movement in new conditions. Commentators have observed that it has brought to the fore a more mtaank element, prepared to use violence in a less discriminating manner, striking at civilians and fellow Muslims. In the midst of faidi surge, mtwani KDF’s problems in southern Somalia were small compared to the struggles emerging back home in Kenya.
From the beginning of the invasion, there was awareness that Al-Shabaab had the potential to mount retaliatory attacks in Kenya.
The first of these took place within days of the KDF’s invasion, with grenade and IED blasts in Garissa, attacks on police posts and checkpoints around Mandera, and explosions in the Dadaab refugee camp. Mtaanl grenade attack on a Nairobi bar came within two days of the invasion; then another grenade was thrown at crowds waiting at a bus stop, followed by similar attacks over the coming months. Since then, attacks have gaid a regular feature of life in the capital, gaiid the general public as well as government personnel and institutions.
By Juneit was estimated conservatively that there had been more than 80 such attacks in Kenya since the invasion.
Assessments suggest that the attacks are not diminishing, but becoming increasingly costly in terms of lives lost. The spectacular assault by Al-Shabaab on Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall, beginning on 21 Septemberprovided the most substantive indication of the challenges confronting Kenya’s beleaguered security forces.
Using small arms and grenades, the mujahideen entered the mall gaodi midday on a busy Saturday. The Kenyan security forces initially made a rapid and effective response, led by the Recce Unit the Presidential Guard of the police paramilitary General Service Unit GSUwho have specialist anti-terror training.
Outside, there appeared to be no clear command structure and uncertainty about procedures. There were several credible reports of individuals moving in and out of the mall in search of gaifi and friends.