What Happened in the El Adde Attack?
January 21 2015
The title presents a question I am sure, that is in the mind of most Kenyans. It is obviously a situation that military analysts are looking at also and should be trying to answer in the next few days. Without the benefit of witness accounts that those analysts may have, I am conscious not to quickly draw any conclusions. Moreover, the nature of armed conflict is that incidents don’t usually follow a text book process and only those who were there when hell broke loose can speak definitively.
I begin by paying my respect to our heroes both fallen and surviving. What they have managed to achieve in the war against terror in Somalia has given the entire region the hope for a peaceful future. As for those who paid that ultimate price in this incident, you shall never be forgotten. Like biblical Abel’s blood I hear your spilt blood calling from the ground, let us who remain make it count for something. At this time my prayers are with their families.
El Adde is near the Kenyan border. Is that military camp a permanent base or was it a place chosen for an overnight stop while in transit? Was it not on a higher ground than the surrounding area? Is there even any higher ground there which would afford all round visibility and advantage over an intending enemy? This is one reason I proposed the building of forts along our Eastern borderhttps://www.linkedin.com/pulse/building-wall-mandera-national-border-security-ben-muoki?trk=mp-reader-card
To me it seems al shabaab exploited several vulnerabilities including the following;
1) Amniyat (al shabaab’s intelligence wing) was likely well aware of the new arrivals in the theater of war. The KDF Company must have been assessed as it drove through Kenya into Somalia and to the camp. Thus it is logical to assume the enemy new the estimated number of soldiers and the equipment including tanks and other weapons they might have had. It’s also logical to assume this attack was not spontaneous rather it may have been planned with the aid of Amniyat informant’s some possibly embedded within the ranks of the SNA who shared the remote Ceel Cado camp site. In an operational sense why here and not Kismayo, Mogadishu and other strategic towns? Well my reasoning tells me that it could be a place where KDF has been using as a stop for reliever units entering the field of operations. If so as it has been mentioned of the 9th Kenya Rifles Company involved in the incident, the troops having endured some days of travel from their base in Eldoret might have been somewhat exhausted and unfamiliar with the terrain, making them ideal targets for attack planners. Another interesting perspective that the enemy might have taken advantage of is short comings in the type of handover done between units as they traded places on the battle field. I believe sufficient briefing of commanders takes place, still I would be attracted to see, assuming the infantry unit was composed of experienced troops, if any time was availed working together between the incoming and outgoing units to allow soldiers to pass on any firsthand knowledge of the operational area. On the other hand fingers could be pointed at our intelligence network in the area but without sufficient information on why our troops had no idea about an impending attack I will only say that avenue needs be assessed also.
2) How did the vehicles laden with explosives get to detonating distance? Anyone who has been near a KDF military base in Kenya will know there is normally a maze created by cement filled drums that is used as a barrier which forces you to slow down upon your approach, there is a standoff distance at which one is required to stop his vehicle for a cautious sentry team to inspect before allowing you to enter. Surveillance towers are normally positioned around the fence to spot an enemy while still afar of. Why those didn’t work in this case could have been lack of night vision capable equipment could have been something else. Finally, there is no base I know of without a formidable fence and clear area around the facility. Assuming that in a war zone measures like this would be doubly enforced, why would have the attackers succeed? Well they must have hit the first stop with a VBIED followed by another possible at the secondary control entry point. Coupled with the confusion caused by the possibly diversionary first VBIED attack on the SNA main gate that probably drew most KDF responders to that end of the camp before realizing too late that their own site was the target of the main attack. Staying with that thought, how is the coordination planned between the two camps in such an eventuality? It looks like the enemy planned and executed a perfect feint movement. This is a classical diversionary tactic, in a time long past, Sun Tzu said that all war is based on deception and misdirection, this appears to have been the case here. Question is; we know that al shabaab favors the use of VBIEDs like in the Datwish government security camp attack 2011, the Jazeera palace hotel bombing in 2015, the presidential palace attack in September 2015 and the Kismayo Army Training School in August 2015 among many others. In preparation to stop just this kind of attack what firepower did the KDF sentry force pack? I put it to the reader, a G3 or M15 rifle would be grossly insufficient, a general purpose machine gun (GPMG) or some grenades might have been useful but those too are no guarantee against a suicide attacker driving a modified vehicle at top speed possibly with frontal armament against just that kind of response. So was there a Vickers battle tank readily positioned at the entrance? Was there any weapon with similar capability as a tank or an anti tank weapon, a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) might have been an effective defense against the speeding VBIEDS? If these provisions had been set up why were they not used to effectively stop the attack at the onset? If none had been provided what does that say about KDF’s risk management capabilities? I leave that for your own assessment.
3) Looks like the initial VBIED attacks served to pry open the outer perimeter, going by official accounts these were quickly followed by many suicide attackers. Again that is a sign of meticulous planning and preparation. Why use individual suicide attackers? I would imagine al shabaab new that even in the confusion they would be no match being out numbered against a better trained, equipped and disciplined force that KDF is. This would demand for them to find a way of quickly lashing out at numerous targets at the same time in the first few minutes of an attack hence more explosives carried to the enemy by persons not looking to escape KDF retaliation within those close quarters, alas suicide attackers, was their natural choice. What is interesting is to see how were the shaid’s clad, was it in uniform resembling KDF’s or SNA’s, making them hard to identify in the mêlée. Analysts will want to find out how much explosive each carried, how was the IED designed, how many were they? Pointing to required impact for each one. When unleashed after the VBIEDs how did they deploy was it strategic/ did they know which buildings to strike at? Hinting at intelligence led operations on their part. What was stolen? Pointing to possible needs the attackers may have had.
4) I have heard and suspect we have taken a beating in this attack. Being routed out of their secure campsite it is like the whole company was caught napping. One print media account attributed to Cabinet Secretary Ambassador Raychelle Omamo, suggests that we lost more than eighty soldiers. Going by history Cabinet Secretary Rt. Gen. Nkaissery gave similar figures early in the Garissa incident where we finally lost over 142 people. We will wait to see what is said finally. In the mean time I wonder how SNA faired on in the same incident, reports have been fairly silent. Not to read anything in this, yet all avenues and explanations must be pursued to their logical conclusions to ensure no repeat incident in future.
5) Why attack a military base, obviously a hard target compared to a university college or a shopping mall? The simple reason of wanting KDF to exit Somalia may account for the overall strategy but in the immediate arena it speaks of something more. The camp would also be seen as a resource base by the enemy. If the attackers succeeded as they did, they would immediately gain access to weapons, resources and equipment they probably were short of. May be this Al Adde region is a strategic root to other important targets or bases. It is also possible that al shabaab which is already pressed out of other regions is looking to curve out a new territory for itself. In some of the other regions as those that are adjacent to Ethiopia, al shabaab may have been neutralized by coercion or collusion with that “friendly government.” Hence this attack has to be seen in the context of numerous other attacks executed or foiled along our eastern border. Such incidents include; Garissa University 2015, Lamu numerous incidents in the Boni forest, Mpeketoni attack – June 2014, the Military Base in Lamu – June 2015, Mandera bus assault – Nov 2014 or the quarry attack in July 2015 and the governor being targeted in October 2015 among many others.
6) My last questions under this series are; where are they escaping to? Now that they have struck grabbed some military hardware possibly some army vehicles, where do they intend to hide them? Those are not as simple to conceal as a single person taken hostage why can’t we cut them off, surround them and force a situation with them? Are there any hostages really? If their lives matter and we can’t master whatever it takes to give chase overtake and recover, have we then asked big brother the U.S. for whatever assistance we still need to get back our people? Pride verses life, I chose both, GoK should ask for help yesterday, if they need it albeit secretly. Still al shabaab’s capability is in the least surprising, if unlike many citizens were led to believe, the enemy is able to launch such a coordinated and obviously well planned attack against a professional force of about 200 KDF officers not to mention the SNA troops. What does this mean for the rest of the nation’s security? I think any supposed victories witnessed from staying attacks in the rest of the country are only an indicator of a possible lull during terrorist restructuring. Are we as safe as we think we are really? You tell me.
I believe it is time we assessed our contribution to AMISOM, not to withdraw as some have mistakenly called for, rather to find if this ongoing, un- surrendering threat may require the country to independently (as Ethiopia has done somewhat) and now in an unlimited, unrelenting manner decide to go for the jugular and snuff out any overt presence anywhere in Kenya, Somalia or any other hell hole anywhere else. My own opinion, “kazi ifanywe kwanza, kesi badaye. Uliza”, Valdimir Putin!