Kenya: U.S. Officials Mum Amid Talk of Drone Strikes Plan for Kenya

An MQ-9 Reaper drone, armed with laser-guided munitions (file photo).
17 September 2020

American officials have dodged the question of Washington considering drone strikes on Kenyan soil in an expanded effort to defeat Al-Shabaab.

They, however, admit that hunting down the al-Qaeda-linked group "will demand maximum effort".

In response to a New York Times article on Tuesday that America is planning to extend armed drone operations to Kenya, the US Africa Command (Africom), instead said the character of Al-Shabaab demands continued strikes.

Africom public affairs director Chris Karns steered clear of the drone issue, but told the Nation that the US would continue collaborating with Kenya on counter-terrorism measures.

"Al-Shabaab is the most capable terrorist group in Africa. As such, there is a need to apply consistent international pressure on the organisation and to monitor its activities and presence. We will continue to actively place pressure on its networks and work with partners to prevent the spread of Al-Shabaab," Col Karns said Wednesday.

"The US and Kenya share a commitment to regional security and stability. Kenya is a regional leader in the fight against Al-Shabaab and the Islamic State group and provides critical contributions to the African Union Mission in Somalia."

Security cooperation

Africom, a combatant arm of the US Department of Defence, is in charge of security cooperation with African countries even though its headquarters is in Stuttgart, Germany.

It has a major base in Djibouti, which serves the Horn of Africa, but runs a camp in Manda Bay, Lamu County.

Al-Shabaab overran the camp in January, killing three Americans and destroying aircraft.

The New York Times on Tuesday said the incident influenced the Pentagon to consider expanding armed drone operations to portions of Kenya near the Somalia border.

That consideration, the New York Times said citing sources, would not immediately mean the US would launch attacks on Kenyan soil.

Defence Cabinet Secretary Monica Juma did not respond to our queries.

However, US ambassador to Kenya Kyle McCarter told the Nation that Washington's cooperation with Nairobi on defence and security involves the continued review of threats.

He did not address the drone issue.

"The US stands shoulder to shoulder with Kenya in our mutual objective to defeat terrorists and keep Kenyans and Americans safe," he said by email.

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