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How will the Taliban Victory Impact Other Conflicts Involving Jihadist Militants? (Online Event)
How will the Taliban Victory Impact Other Conflicts Involving Jihadist Militants? (Online Event)
Report 184 / Africa

The Kenyan Military Intervention in Somalia

As Kenya advances into southern Somalia, it must act cautiously and avoid prolonged “occupation”, lest it turn local opinion against the operation and galvanise opposition Al-Shabaab can co-opt, much as happened to Ethiopia in 2006-2009.

Executive Summary

The decision in October 2011 to deploy thousands of troops in Somalia’s Juba Valley to wage war on Al-Shabaab is the biggest security gamble Kenya has taken since independence, a radical departure for a country that has never sent its soldiers abroad to fight. Operation Linda Nchi (Protect the Country) was given the go-ahead with what has shown itself to be inadequate political, diplomatic and military preparation; the potential for getting bogged down is high; the risks of an Al-Shabaab retaliatory terror campaign are real; and the prospects for a viable, extremist-free and stable polity emerging in the Juba Valley are slim. The government is unlikely to heed any calls for a troop pullout: it has invested too much, and pride is at stake. Financial and logistical pressures will ease once its force becomes part of the African Union (AU) mission in Somalia (AMISOM). But it should avoid prolonged “occupation” of southern Somalia, lest it turn local Somali opinion against the intervention and galvanise an armed resistance that could be co-opted by Al-Shabaab, much as happened to Ethiopia during its 2006-2009 intervention.

The intervention was hastily approved, after a string of cross-border kidnappings, by a small group without sufficient consideration of the consequences, at home as well as in Somalia. Military leaders were apparently convinced it would be a quick campaign, but the Kenyan Defence Forces (KDF) promptly ran into difficulties on the unfamiliar terrain. Somali allies failed to deliver and began squabbling, while Al-Shabaab, rather than confront Kenyan tanks and armoured personnel carriers head-on, predictably reverted to guerrilla warfare – something the KDF was poorly trained and equipped to fight. Irrespective of whether its troops are “rehatted” into AMISOM, there is a real prospect Kenya will find itself with undependable allies, enmeshed in a protracted counter-insurgency campaign against a resilient and experienced enemy.

The involvement in Somalia was partly motivated by a desire to inoculate North Eastern Province from the chaos across its border, ease a huge refugee burden and curtail the radical influence of Al-Shabaab, but the unintended consequences may prove destabilising. The venture could reopen old wounds, foment new inter-clan discord, radicalise Kenyan Somalis and undermine recent social, economic and political advances. The North Eastern Province is now the soft underbelly in the war against Al-Shabaab. New evidence suggests the radical Islamist movement is intent on destabilising the province, and part of its strategy is to outflank the KDF and wage a low-intensity guerrilla campaign there and in other areas behind Kenyan lines. A string of deadly grenade attacks in Garissa and elsewhere, initially dismissed as the work of local malcontents, now is seen to have a pattern. Most of the venues targeted have been bars frequented by government and security officials and poorly-defended government outposts.

Furthermore, the intervention taps into deep-seated Kenyan fears of Somali encroachment and corresponding Somali qualms that Kenya seeks to assert control over territory that was once part of colonial Kenya. Al-Shabaab is trying to exploit Kenyan-Somali grievances against Nairobi and making pan-Somali appeals, although without much apparent success to date. For Kenya’s venture to have a positive outcome, its leadership will need to define its goals and exit strategy more clearly, as well as work effectively with international partners to facilitate reconciliation and the development of effective local government mechanisms in the areas of Somalia where its forces are active, as part of a larger commitment to ending Somalia’s conflicts and restoring stability to the region.

While this briefing is an independent treatment of the Kenyan intervention in Somalia, some elements, in particular issues related to Al-Shabaab, Kenyan Somalis, and North Eastern Province, have also been discussed in earlier Crisis Group reporting, most recently the briefing Kenyan Somali Islamist Radicalisation (25 January 2012). Crisis Group will publish shortly a briefing on the wider issues involved in restoring peace to Somalia.

Nairobi/Brussels, 15 February 2012

Event Recording / Asia

How will the Taliban Victory Impact Other Conflicts Involving Jihadist Militants? (Online Event)

Could the seizure of Afghanistan by the Taliban just before the twentieth anniversary of al-Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks be a turning point for jihadist militancy worldwide? (Online Event, 28th September 2021)

Could the seizure of Afghanistan by the Taliban just before the twentieth anniversary of al-Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks be a turning point for jihadist militancy worldwide? Two decades after those attacks, the U.S. administration withdrew its forces from Afghanistan and the Taliban quickly took control of the country. This followed direct talks between the U.S. and the Taliban and an agreement they reached in February 2020 for the U.S. to pull out troops from Afghanistan in exchange for – amongst other things – guarantees the Taliban would not allow transnational militants to use Afghan soil for plotting attacks abroad.

As part of our series The Legacy of 9/11 and the “War on Terror”, please join us for this online event which will explore the impact of the Taliban takeover on other wars involving al-Qaeda and ISIS-linked groups. Crisis Group analysts will discuss the perceptions of jihadists and their enemies in the Sahel, Somalia and Syria of the dramatic events in Afghanistan and what they might mean for those conflicts in which they are fighting. The panel discussion will be followed by a Q&A with the audience.

Panelists:

Dareen Khalifa, Senior Analyst, Syria
Omar Mahmood, Senior Analyst, Somalia
Ibrahim Yahaya, Senior Analyst, Sahel

This event is moderated by Jerome Drevon, Senior Analyst, Jihad and Modern Conflict

How will the Taliban Victory Impact Other Conflicts Involving Jihadist Militants? (Online Event, 28th September 2021)