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Forces should not let militants re-group

Thursday October 20 2011

By MAJOR (Rtd) IMAANA LAIBUTA

As the Kenyan military continuous to take out al Shabaab bases at the Somalia border, the militia must be re-grouping and planning retaliatory attacks.

The biggest advantage our troops have is that they caught al Shabaab by surprise.

The group probably never anticipated that Kenya could launch a full scale military operation against them, leave alone push deep into the Somali territory.

This reminds me of an incident in 1990, when a 2nd Lieutenant (platoon commander) manning the Liboi border post barred a pick-up full of illegal miraa traders from crossing into Somalia since the border was officially closed.

One of the traders ordered the driver to move on as Kenyan soldiers “never shoot at anybody”.

Unknown to them, the officer understood the Somali language and we had also received orders to engage any illegal group that forcefully defied the border closure.

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The platoon commander then ordered one of his soldiers to fire warning shots if the driver started the vehicle. After the soldier fired the first shot, one of the men in the car drew a hidden pistol.

Instinctively the soldier fired effective shots and killed the gunman and several of his colleagues.

The joint force should therefore exploit this surprise to destroy the militia’s strongholds and economic bases in the Somalia region bordering Kenya.

On the home front, other government security agencies should be pulling a noose around the merchants and money launders in Eastleigh, Nairobi who raise and channel funds to the insurgents.

This is also the time for western intelligence agencies to give the Kenyan military intelligence and not redacted versions accompanied by lame excuses that full version information will jeopardise their security.

Giving out real time and actionable intelligence for immediate or short term use by our troops cannot jeopardise anybody’s security.

Immediate material support should also be extended to the joint force to cushion Kenya from over-stretching her struggling economy.

I presume that the joint force needs modern high-tech communication equipment. They also need replacement of equipment likely to be destroyed during the battle.

They also need abundance ammunition especially for tanks, Air Cavalry and Air Force and these are not cheap by our standards.

The government should work with mobile phone service providers to “red flag” and if necessary monitor communication sympathetic to the group.

Many rights activists may oppose this as draconian but we are fighting a faceless enemy with many supporters among us and our lives are at stake.

The government must also insist that the Transitional Federal Government troops occupy liberated bases to ensure the insurgents do not re-group easily.

It should also incorporate the Kenyan Somali elders and opinion leaders along the common border in screening cross border movements.

The Israelis say that when they want to take an unpopular action in the interest of national security, they “put world opinion in the pocket and only remove it when they are done”.

For the Kenyan public, we should activate our “alert drivers”. We should detect suspicious characters in our neighbourhoods and report them to the security agencies.

l[email protected] The writer is a former Kenya Army officer presently running a security consultancy in South Sudan