Last week’s Nairobi bombing may not have been against Kenya, but America.
Today global media reran a report by Somali Radio Dalsan shortly after the attack last week. The report claimed that bombing was in direct response to two American actions: (1) the decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem and (2) revenge for the American drone killing of a top al-Shabaab leader.
There are several pretty critical points to garner from this report. But first note that Radio Dalsan is the most reliable news source in Somalia. It was founded and is mostly run by a man, Haasan Ali Geesey, who was active in a Mogadishu militia during much of the 20-year civil war before he fled to Nairobi where he worked as a journalist for four years.
He returned to Mogadishu with the backing of a number of NGOs and financial assistance from some of the Somali diaspora to create Radio Dalsan. His success comes from a widely publicized mission of “giving voice to the poor” while reporting with a measure of objectivity difficult in Africa. He’s often attacked by terrorists as a mouthpiece for Christian missionaries; he’s anything but.
So I believe him.
Everyone thought that the attack last week in Nairobi was a continuing revenge against Kenya for invading Somalia. Since 2011 Kenya has fought there relentlessly — America’s proxy — publicly outfitted and trained and no doubt directed every step of the way by the Pentagon.
A year after the invasion the fall of Kismayo signaled to many analysts that Kenya had completely succeeded and that the fight was almost over.
I and every half-wise analyst knew better. You don’t defeat terrorists. You simply suppress them.
That perception continued more or less until the horrible Westgate Mall bombing in September, 2013. America stepped up its assistance to Kenya, and despite two additional high profile bombings (in very remote locations far from Nairobi and near Somalia) and a number of embarrassing military losses, Kenya has stayed the course in Somalia.
All it seems for some value democratically. A reasonable national government now has control of Somalia. There’s a semblance of normalcy, although bombs and incidents go off regularly just as they do in Afghanistan and Iraq. But the fight of attrition between terrorists (al-Shabaab) and democratic forces inched mercilessly along in favor of the democratic forces.
Until Trump came to power.
The retreat from African military involvement was near immediate. By October, 2017, the American military could no longer hide that its “retreat” from the Horn was having terrible effects.
That whole fall, 2017, was a disaster as Somalia tried to adjust to America’s withdrawal.
Yet they did, and probably because of France. But not enough to stop the resurgence of al-Shabaab in their hinterland, and that’s the stand-off today. The “reasonable government” controls Mogadishu and most of the larger urban areas, but al-Shabaab is regaining control of the rural areas.
Kenya has not completely withdrawn. It’s mired in the place, stuck now because of the massive Dadaab refugee camp on the border that it’s tried to close but has been unable to politically or in defiance of so many international voices insisting it must remain operational.
The al-Shabaab announcement is prescient. I think they know that Kenya has little in the game not given to it by America and believe they can now move Kenyan public opinion away from America to the point that Kenya will close Dadaab and withdraw.
The “reasonable government” in Somalia and “objective” voices like Radio Dalsan will disappear. Al-Shabaab will once again overlord a lose federation of warring clans. Modernity will reverse. We will be back to the same situation that existed a decade ago.
Frankly, apart from the stellar individuals like Ali Geesey I just don’t know if that’s bad or good, or if it could ever have been different. Certainly the fragile “reasonable government” in Somalia cannot develop without enormous help from the west. But there is no Mattis anywhere to be seen.