Understanding the dynamics of a country in a state of war

As we mourn the loss of KDF soldiers, it is pertinent for citizens to understand the dynamics of a country that is in a state of war.

Sunday January 24 2016

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As we mourn the loss of Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) soldiers in an attack in Somalia on January 15, it is pertinent for citizens to understand the dynamics of a country that is in a state of war.

Kenya went to war in Somalia with the aim of neutralising al-Shabaab.

A campaign against a non-conventional enemy comes with a lot of complications.

Many powerful countries, including the US, have a history of pulling out of military campaigns.

This happened in Somalia in the early 1990s. Israel was also forced to pull out of Lebanon after its stay became costly in terms of human losses.

There are countries that achieve success in their campaigns against insurgents and terrorist groups.

Sri Lanka managed to neutralise an insurgency after 25 years of military campaign. Even Kenya in the early 1960s won the Shifta campaign.


The KDF is under pressure to explain what happened in the deadly attack. We forget that the army has its own mechanisms of addressing any military setbacks.

It is too early to press the military about what transpired in this deadly attack.

It is true that there is anxiety not only among family members but also the entire country.

But the priority of the military is to rescue those missing in action and recover bodies of those who died in the combat zone.

Such a mission is dangerous, tricky and frustrating. Overall, it requires patience from both the military and the public.

In the event that the military succumbs to public pressure, contradictions and panic set in, all to the enemy’s advantage.

The US is said to have lost more than 5,000 troops since its invasion of Iraq.

Fallen soldiers are usually brought home quietly and given a decent send-off with full military honours.

By condemning and vilifying the military and government and posting disparaging comments on social media, the winner is none other than the enemy.

When an army suffers casualties, in-house inquiries are conducted to establish the circumstances that led to the losses.

It takes time for the public to get the full picture.


A soldier’s basic training is in teamwork, comradeship and perseverance. No soldier will sabotage a military mission knowing well that doing so may cost them their lives.

When a setback occurs, it is the responsibility of those in command to scrutinise systematically what led to such a problem with a view to preventing a repeat of the same.

While wars are meant to achieve success, there will setbacks in any battle. These are treated as lessons for the future.

Overall, the performance of the KDF has been exemplary and it has all it takes to overcome the current challenges.

The mission in Somalia is complex, considering the type of enemy, where both terror and insurgent tactics are used.

The KDF counts on public support as a key component of maintaining confidence and high morale. Let us support the soldiers.

The writer is a retired military officer and a certified security management consultant; [email protected]