Monday, April 25, 2016

The KDF soldiers who fought the Al Shabaab in El Adde Somalia were indeed Heroic: Al Shabaab Video Review

A few weeks ago, the Al Shabaab, or the UGUS as they should be properly referred to, released a 50 minute video showing how they overran the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) camp in El Adde village, Gedo region of Somalia. The video has been referred to as an Al Shabaab propaganda video by some quarters, but I consider it an objective video, with the only element of propaganda being the fact that they do not show us their dead or injured.

This was the fourth major video in recent times that the UGUS have taken in combat. The first one was during their foiled attack on a Kenyan military base in Lamu, about 100 kilometres from Somalia border. They had over 100 fighters, where some of them were killed in the attack, and most of them in the pursuit that followed. Two KDF soldiers died in action. Sections of the video were posted by KDF after they got hold of the camera. This foiled attack was significant for two reasons; first it confirmed that the UGUS indeed had foreign combatants in their ranks, and secondly, it totally dismissed the idea that KDF’s withdrawal from Somalia would mean an end to UGUS attacks in Kenya.
The second video was released by the UGUS themselves after a Burundian camp was overran in Lego village in June 2015 leaving 50-80 Burundian soldiers dead. The attack was preceded by a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) being driven into the base, backed up by over 200 fighters. The captured AMISOM survivors were beheaded.
The third video was released after the September 2015 Jalaale attack on a Ugandan camp where Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) lost between 20 and 50 soldiers. Again, this attack was preceded by a car bomb, followed by waves of UGUS attackers. The long video seems to mock President Yoweri Museveni by showing another video of him challenging the UGUS to attack soldiers rather than unnamed students. It also interviews a captured UPDF soldier. Through this video, we are able to see the impressive fighting spirit and capability of the Ugandan soldiers, as we can see many UGUS fighters being felled in the attack (including their first video man, before a second one takes over)
The fourth video was that of the Al Adde KDF camp attack where 60 to over 100 KDF soldiers were killed (both Al Shabaab estimates) and 12 taken hostage. This time round, the video is more detailed, with very gory images of the dead being shown, and it begins with an interview of the suicide bomber, and ends with interviews of several captured KDF soldiers. A voice-play of the slain Mombasa Sheikh Aboud Rogo mocking the KDF as inexperienced and weak fighters is included.
Apart from this mocking, and the fact that we are not shown any of their wounded (it is reported that they had three truck loads for their own), I dare say that the video was actually propaganda material for KDF. This is because of the following reasons:

1)      Just like in the Jalaale UPDF attack video, this video showed that KDF soldiers are indeed strong, resilient, courageous and dedicated combatants. Other than the soldiers who were ripped off by the VBIED, all the soldiers shown died with their M4 and G3 rifles on their hands. Most of them had exit wounds on their heads meaning that they died fighting behind the trenches. We see that the KDF soldiers do not die easy. Most of them are shot several times but continue fighting, taking cover or crawling to safer places.
2)      All the captured and interviewed soldiers (except one) had bullet or shrapnel wounds and were visibly in pain, and from the way they faced the camera, it was clear that they were psychologically prepared to die. Readiness to die is a very powerful mentality for any fighting force.
3)      The withdrawal was an accurate on-field analysis. With no back up or air support coming through, and with the UGUS fire power increasing by the hour, standing ground would have meant a higher death toll.  Also marching 100 kilometres to El Wak was a gallant of those who survived.
4)      The video confirms that what the CDF Samson Mwathethe reported on the events at El Adde was true. In a country where we have previously been told about burning mattresses, it was difficult to believe Mwathethe’s account of events, until he was corroborated by the video months later.

The video also shows that the KDF knew that there was an impending attack. The commander of the nearby Somali National Army (SNA) base that withdrew before the attack told the Voice of America radio that on being informed of the imminent UGUS attack, the KDF base commander responded by saying that ‘we are ready for it.’ What the KDF commander expected was an ordinary UGUS attack. It is important to note that before then, the KDF had thwarted numerous UGUS attacks, including car bomb attacks, similar to the ones that had been used in Lego and Jalaale. The only difference that made the difference at El Adde came in the fact that unlike the previous bombs that were loaded on small cars, the El Adde bombs were loaded on an armored African Union vehicle that were taken from the overran Burundian base in Lego. The amount of explosives was similar to what the ISIS use in Iraq and Syria (Here is a video of an Iraqi explosion and shockwave similar to the one that happened in El Adde, here is another one of Iraqi forces dealing with a moving ISIS VBIED )

The only way that a car bomb of such magnitude mounted in such a vehicle can be stopped is by knowing that it is coming. By expecting it. The fact that the UGUS heightened their attack to such a level demonstrated their tactical superiority in this particular situation. The fact that the KDF expected an attack similar to the previous attacks shows a great failure in intelligence gathering, and in their extrapolatory tactics.
This is because in both the Lego and Jalaale attacks, Anti-air guns, Tanks, Armored Personnel Carriers, Ammunition and other sophisticated weaponry fell into UGUS hands. Was it difficult to expect the UGUS to use these Materiel in subsequent attacks? Was it not logical to prepare for a better armed enemy? The first air support sent to El Adde had to be withdrawn on discovering that the UGUS had Anti-Air guns with them. Didn’t KDF expect them to have those weapons after they were captured from the Ugandan base? Isn’t it now obvious that the UGUS will try to use the Kenyan uniforms, vehicles and weapons that they took from El Adde in their future attacks most likely inside Kenya?
It is sad that those gallant soldiers died because of intelligence and tactics failure of the KDF and AMISOM command in general.

As I posted in January after the attack, I still maintain that “this is war, and fighters must die. The KDF soldiers can either die while fulfilling their AMISOM duties, or they can ensure that the Al Shabaab chaps die as they fulfil their Al shabaab duties.” However, any deaths of AMISOM soldiers must be out of reasonable circumstances and not through predictable errors. In recent days, two shiploads of weapons have been intercepted in the Indian Ocean on their way to the UGUS. It is possible that others have already been successfully delivered. AMISOM should prepare for such a possibility.

Also, the KDF should review their relations with foreign armies. It is believed that the shiploads of arms destined for the UGUS came from Turkey. It is believed that the UGUS are receiving support from ISIS, which in turn receives support from Turkey, Israel and Saudi Arabia. In the Middle East region, Iran is at the forefront of fighting ISIS (in Iraq and in Syria) and Saudi sponsored terrorism, and they have been successful all through. It is time that Kenya evaluated its relationships and chooses the correct allies. Kenya must cut off ties with countries that support terrorism, and join forces with those who fight terrorism.

I also reiterate that “this particular tactical victory by the UGUS doesn’t mean that the KDF is generally tactically inferior to the UGUS. On the contrary, the tactical and strategical capabilities of KDF in Somalia are indisputable as has been proven by their involvement so far. They have engaged in more actual battles than their Ethiopian, Ugandan, Djiboutian, Sierra Leonian and Burundian counterparts have. They have ventured into territories that were considered no-go-zones for intervening forces, the strongholds and economic centres for the Al Shabaab. They have gotten involved with the basic issues of the Somalian people more than any other force in Somalia.”

 For instance, the UPDF contained itself in specific military, transport and political installations Mogadishu for a long time, and only dared to venture out after seeing the unexpected success of KDF in sector two region which was the main stronghold of the UGUS. Since then they have proved themselves as excellent fighters. The Ethiopian forces on the other hand have engaged in very limited combat with the UGUS, and they prefer withdrawing from their bases whenever there is an impending UGUS attack, something that is completely unprofessional and unsustainable. It seems that Ethiopia’s main interest is Geo-Political control, and not just regional security.
The Puntland forces have recently been inflicting heavy losses to the UGUS, and AMISOM should find ways of supporting them and working with them. The success of the Puntland forces shows that regional-forces approaches should complement the Somali National Army reconstruction efforts, if not take precedence.

Through the videos, the UGUS have not only exposed their ways of fighting, but more importantly they have shown themselves celebrating on empty roads, confirming that they do not have the support of the Somalian masses. That is critical information since the war in Somalia will eventually be won or lost depending on where the masses stand.
Every KDF recruit should be shown those three Somalia videos so that they can finally decide on whether they are still interested in joining the army, and also so that they can psychologically prepare themselves for the future.

We have in the past complained about the lack of information from KDF on the developments in Somalia, and they have responded by claiming that the information docket lies strictly with AMISOM. It looks like the El Adde attack forced them to turn around, and they have recently reactivated their twitter handle. They should also bring Major Chirchir back or introduce Colonel Oguna to twitter. I hope they will keep us posted like they used to during Operation Linda Nchi (which by the way, In terms of video propaganda, beyond the operation’s documentary by KDF, it would be great to watch some intelligent local movies based on KDF entry into Somalia, maybe circulating around Lieutenant-Colonel Jeff Nyaga or Maj Emmanuel Kaliakamur for a start?)

Lastly, the UGUS seem to be having many Kenyans in their ranks. The Kiswahili that they have been using in their videos in not the Kismayu or Barawe type. It is very Kenyan. In a video released about two months ago, a Kenyan UGUS leader originally from Majengo, Nairobi addresses Kenyans in Kiswahili, issuing a lot of threats, and displaying military uniforms, weapons, boots and IDs of the killed Kenyan soldiers. Before going to Somalia, this chap was under the radar of the Kenya police. Rather than allowing such people to disappear into Somalia, or executing them in the streets, can’t the Kenyan security agencies use technology on these people to get information on their organization in Kenya and in Somalia, and use the information to arrest their strategies and jail their members?

AMISOM is doing well in Somalia, and Kenyan security agencies have done well internally in as far as the terror incidences that were taking place every now and then are concerned, and they must be congratulated for that.
However, all these achievements are temporary. There cannot be long lasting National Security, without Human Security. The only political system that can ensure Human Security in our world today is Socialism. Young people do not have hope. That is why they are swayed by clerics who promise them hope in an imaginary afterlife. It is no wonder that throughout the recent history of the world, there has been an inverse relationship between religion-based terrorism, religious fundamentalism, tribalism, sexism etc and Socialism.

 As Mwandawiro Mghanga, Chairperson of the Social Democratic Party once said, “Kenyan youths need radicalization now more than ever. They need to be radicalized against capitalism, against corruption, against tribalism, against marginalization, against religious fundamentalism and against all the system-caused evils that we see all around today.”

Indeed, the Kenyan media should introduce a noun before the word radicalization, or simply substitute the word ‘radicalization’ with ‘retardation’ when referring to those who believe in the afterlife goodies and similar ideas; retardation of hopeless youths.

Benedict WACHIRA
24th April 2016

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