Nairobi, Kenya — Kenya's Chief of Defence Forces Julius Karangi now says AMISOM troops are working out a plan to capture their key target of Kismayu in Somalia by August this year.
Karangi said the port of Kismayu could have been captured a long time ago, were it not for other forces under the African Union Mission for Somalia (AMISOM) from other countries who have taken long to take their positions.
"We hear all manner of voices... that when is KDF going to capture Kismayu and we agreed that it is going to be captured by all the troops who are participating in AMISOM, including KDF," he said.
"So the issue of Kismayu today, Kismayu tomorrow is neither here nor there but it is going to come. It was resolved early this year that Kismayu is going to be an AMISOM agenda," the General said, and urged for patience from critics who feel the troops are taking too long to hit the target.
"This target will happen before August when the TFG (Transitional Federal Government of Somalia) mandate expires," Karangi said when briefing a US delegation led by Senator Christopher Coons of Delaware and US Ambassador Scott Gration who called on Internal Security Minister Professor George Saitoti at his Harambee House office.
Karangi said Kenya was ready to capture Kismayu as its troops were only seven kilometres from the Indian Ocean port town.
He said the delay to capture Kismayu has also been occasioned by each of the troops involved wanting to take pride of being the ones who have seized the key target but they have now resolved to move in together.
"Kismayu happens to be in the sector that Kenya occupies, that is sector 2, but for reasons that are beyond Kenya it was agreed that it will be captured by all of us. This is in writing. There is some sense of pride, by the other AMISOM members to feel like they had a slice of Kismayu and this is what I gather and that is okay. But in the meantime, we continue to exert pressure on Al Shabaab, we are only seven kilometres short of Kismayu at sea," he said.
Karangi said they are making great strides in the war, although they have lost 12 soldiers since October 2012 when Kenyan forces crossed into the war torn country.
KDF soldiers crossed into Somalia last year and have been pushing deep into the war torn country, capturing most regions occupied by Al Shabaab.
Senator Coons and Ambassador Gration pledged more support to the AMISOM troops so as to stabilise the nation.