Author: Hillary Orinde
AfricaPress-Kenya: The United States military is seeking approval to launch drone strikes against terrorism suspects in Kenya, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.
If granted, the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) will target Al-Shabab insurgents in eastern Kenya, especially Garissa and Lamu counties, said the report quoting four unnamed American officials.
The request for new strike authorities follows the January 5 attack at Manda Bay, Lamu, when militants overran an airfield and killed three American commandos.
A drone offensive was approved during the brazen Manda attack, the Times reported, but was not used as the militants escaped by retreating to their Somalia territory.
AFRICOM now hopes to get its guidelines in order should Al Shabab, an al-Qaida linked group, attacks again.
The strikes will not only be for self-defence but also offensive to neutralise potential threats.
The authority is subject to approval by the US Defense Secretary Mark Esper and then President Donald Trump who is keen on relaxing limits on drone strikes and raids outside conventional battlefields.
Kenyan authorities will also have to green light flying attack drones in its territory. This is a deviation from countries like Somalia who have allowed the US to fly drones when they so choose.
AFRICOM declined to comment on the draft rules for potential airstrikes but told the Standard Digital the United States and Kenya shared a commitment to regional security and stability.
The agency’s Director of Public Affairs Col. Chris Karns said Al Shabab was the most capable terrorist group on the African continent.
“As such, there is a need to apply consistent international pressure on the terrorist organization and to monitor their activity and presence. We will continue to actively place pressure on their network and work with partners to prevent their spread,” he said.
“Kenya is a regional leader in the fight to defeat al-Shabaab and ISIS, and provides critical contributions to the African Union Mission in Somalia,” he added, and referred us to the Office of the Secretary of Defense – Public Affairs for additional information.
President Uhuru Kenyatta met his American counterpart Donald Trump in August 2018 to forge partnerships including on security, especially the fight against terrorism.
Trump and Uhuru pledged to deepen security cooperation to enhance American support for the Kenya Defence Forces. At the time, the US had provided over Sh25 billion in boats, helicopters and aircraft as well as training and information to support the KDF.
The US regularly carries out airstrikes in Somalia and launches occasional air attacks against militants inside Libya.
It has also been flying drones out of Niger since 2017 but have not reported any drone strike within the territory of the West African Country.