Benghazi 2012. Niger 2017. Manda Bay 2020.
These are just the high-profile cases where American warfighters and diplomats have died in Africa in the last decade. For the most part of the last two decades, the Middle East has captivated the attention of the Pentagon and U.S. media. But Africa has been steadily warming up. And consequently, the Department of Defence (DoD) is reappraising the security of U.S. military bases and outposts in the continent.
On Thursday, the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) chief Army General Stephen Townsend, appeared in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee. In his brief to the lawmakers, Gen. Townsend revealed an ongoing security assessment of all U.S bases and outposts in the region.
“Al-Shabab has shown their reach, and the danger that they pose, and I think that we need to take that seriously,” said Gen. Townsend. “And so I’m looking with a clear eye at every location in Africa now.”
On January 5, al-Shabaab terrorists stormed the joint Kenyan-American airbase in Manda Bay. As a result, three Americans were killed (Army Specialist Henry Mayfield Jr., and military contractors Bruce Triplett and Dustin Harrison) and six precious Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft destroyed.
With respect to the recent attack in Kenya, Gen. Townsend acknowledged a gap in intelligence and security. “I think it’s self-obvious we were not as prepared there at Manda Bay as we needed to be,” said Gen. Townsend. “Al-Shabab managed to penetrate onto that airfield. . . They were able to get access to that airfield, kill three Americans, and destroy six aircraft there. So we weren’t as prepared, and we’re digging into that to find out why that’s the case.”
Additional units have been deployed in Kenya to ensure security. But this seems to be just another case of too little, too late. People from the intelligence community have told SOFREP that AFRICOM is blind in certain parts of Africa. Attacks like the one in Manda Bay support that claim.
If it weren’t for a small group of Marine Raiders from the 3rd Marine Special Operations Battalion (3rd MSOB), who responded to the attack and drove back the Jihadists, the casualty list would have been longer. The New York Times was the first to report the involvement of Marine Special Operations Command (MARSOC) elements in the incident.
AFRICOM assesses the number of al-Shabaab terrorists in Somalia and Kenya to be somewhere between 5,000-7,000 fighters.