8 November 2011

Africa: Nation's Foray Into Somalia Will Shape Future Military Interventions in Africa


The intervention in Somalia must be viewed as a platform that will influence future military operations. Think of America.

When America intervened in Vietnam, the eventual fiasco the war became always influenced future military incursions.

The 1991 Gulf War temporarily reclaimed the political, operational, strategic, and tactical effectiveness of US foreign military interventions.

However, the current Iraq quagmire and the even more complex one in Afghanistan are lasting game-changers.

Military political effectiveness requires the military to galvanise the nation in support of its war missions.

"Operation Linda Nchi" enjoys massive national and international goodwill, including that of the people of Somalia. To sustain this, Kenya must wage an effective public relations campaign to isolate Al-Shabaab from the larger Somali community, limit collateral damage, take full responsibility whenever such events occur, and adhere to international laws governing the conduct of war.

The military campaign is both legal and moral under Article 51 on the "right of self-defence", as a matter of peculiar national interest to protect Kenya's sovereignty.

Political effectiveness demands that the military gets the resources it needs such as money, fit soldiers, and industrial and technological resources to maintain, expand, and sustain the organisation.

Kenya's military budget has fallen from $841 million (2.9 per cent of the GDP) in 1988, to $594 million (2 per cent of the GDP) by 2010. Our sustained campaign in Somalia will require more resources.

Therefore, in the next financial year, we must increase the military outlay in order to replenish worn-out equipment, purchase modern weaponry, recruit more soldiers and increase pay to motivate our men and women.

Both the timing and timeliness of "Operation Linda Nchi" are designed to send strong deterrent messages to our neighbours.

It absolves us from the non-interventionist weak-kneed state to a pragmatic interventionist.

Kenya must impose dominance, annihilate Al-Shabaab and cut off its military, political, and financial support, and dismantle it either through containment or set up an effective security buffer zone.

Strategically, the operation sends a strong message across the Horn of Africa. Remember, in a leaked diplomatic cable posted on WikiLeaks, President Museveni derided the Kenyan military as a "career army" that had no real battle experience.

Others being put on notice include Eritrea and its support for Somalia extremists, Southern Sudan if it ever seeks to carve-out parts of Kenya, and the Oromo Liberation Front rebels on the northern border between Kenya and Ethiopia.

That is why "Operation Linda Nchi" must succeed. At the same time, Kenyans should be prepared for future retaliatory attacks from Al-Shabaab, but sustaining the war and achieving victory should be our ultimate goal.

Questions will be raised about how the military has selected, recruited, analysed, and developed institutional doctrines and military activities, including preparation for war, planning, prospective intelligence on Al-Shabaab and the logistics of fighting in Somalia.

There will also be interest in the morale of our troops, theatre objectives (both entry and exit strategies), and the command and direction of ground, air, and naval forces.

Somalia has a long history of war. Although it is a failed state hedged in internecine clan conflict, civil strife, and sporadic separatist movements, its people both at home and in the Diaspora portray a distinct nationalistic element and resentment 0f invaders.

The history of war is never friendly to invaders. The Soviets lost in Afghanistan, and the US lost in Vietnam and in Somalia following the ill-advised 1992 "Operation Restore Hope".

What important lessons has the Kenya military learnt? Will it make a difference that the spearhead of this operation are the TFG soldiers and Kenyans want the world to believe that they are only providing active military assistance to the Somali force?

The ultimate goal is to compel your enemy to acquiesce. Hopefully, Kenya has planned well.

Dr Sagala, a Kenyan living in Arizona, has published extensively on military effectiveness. He specialises in foreign policy and security studies.

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