United States service members comprising part of U.S. Africa Command’s East Africa Response Force (EARF) have been deployed to Manda Bay airfield in Kenya’s coastal region in order to heighten security following Sunday’s al-Shabaab attack.
Manda Bay airfield, a Kenya Defense Force military base, is utilized by U.S. forces to provide training and counter-terrorism support to East African partners, respond to crises, and protect U.S. interests in a strategically important area.
An unknown number of al-Shabaab militants on Sunday accessed the Manda Airstrip in Lamu and launched an attack that saw three Americans killed and some equipment, including aircrafts at the facility, destroyed.
The attack of the base began after an initial penetration of the perimeter. Kenya Defense Forces and AFRICOM personnel then repelled the al-Shabaab attack involving indirect and small arms fire.
“The EARF provides a critical combat-ready, rapid deployment force,” U.S. Army Major General William Gayler, Director of Operations at AFRICOM said in a statement issued in Nairobi on Wednesday, 8 January 2020.
“The EARF’s ability to respond to events spanning a vast area of responsibility provides a proven and invaluable on-call reinforcement capability in times of need,” he added.
The Somalia-based militant group has repeatedly communicated an intent to attack U.S. interests.
“Al-Shabaab is a brutal terrorist organization. It is an al-Qaeda affiliate seeking to establish a self-governed Islamic territory in East Africa, to remove Western influence and ideals from the region, and to further its jihadist agenda. U.S. presence in Africa is critically important to counter-terrorism efforts,” he stated.
Al-Shabaab senior leaders pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda and are believed to have trained and fought in Afghanistan.
In 2008, the U.S. government designated al-Shabaab as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. Historically, al-Shabaab has been willing to engage large forces, often using surprise and asymmetric tactics.
The terrorist group has expressed intent to attack the United States homeland and target Americans.