Multiple failures contributed to Kenya’s deadly 2020 Manda Bay attack

Inadequate force protection, inadequate understanding of the threat, inadequate security force preparation and problems with mission command were some of the contributing factors that led to the deadly Al Shabaab attack in January 2020 against Manda Bay in Kenya, the US Department of Defense said.

On March 10, the US Department of Defense (DoD) announced the findings of the US Africa Command (Africom) investigation and independent review of the January 5, 2020 attack on the Cooperative Security Site of Manda Bay, which killed a US Army soldier. and two American contractors.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin led the independent review to provide insight, perspective and the ability to assess the entire event, the DoD said. The Africom investigation and independent review found that the immediate cause of the loss of life and property damage was the attack by a massive force of 30-40 determined, disciplined and well-resourced Al Shabaab fighters.

“We weren’t as prepared for Manda Bay as we needed to be. Security on a key part of the base proved to be insufficient, with a security force ill-prepared for their mission,” Gen. Stephen J Townsend, commander of Africa Command, said in a video presentation of the findings to the Pentagon. . “For a number of successive years, there has been complacent leadership and command and control at the tactical level, and poor oversight at the operational level,” Townsend said.

“The investigation and independent review further revealed that no single point of failure resulted in death and property damage, and no act or omission would have averted the attack. However, several factors in causation contributed to the attack, including inadequate focus on force protection, inadequate understanding of the threat, inadequate security force preparation, and issues with mission command,” the DoD said.

The report found that “some senior officers contributed to the inadequate force protection posture at Manda Bay, and allowed for a climate of complacency and misunderstanding of the threat.” Eight officers and enlisted personnel were disciplined for their actions or inaction, the US Air Force said.

The attack killed a US Army soldier, Specialist Henry J Mayfield, and two US contractors, Bruce Triplett and Dustin Harrison. The attack also injured three other US personnel and a Kenyan soldier, and destroyed $71.5 million in US government assets, including aircraft.

Lt. Gen. Steven L Basham, the U.S. Air Force’s deputy commander for Europe and Africa, told media that in the early morning hours of January 5, 2020, two U.S. military personnel driving a small truck along a track in Manda Bay saw thermal images of what they initially thought were hyenas, but were in fact Al Shabab fighters hiding in the vegetation. The fighters fired two rocket-propelled grenades at the truck. One exploded, killing Mayfield, but the other service member in the truck was able to get out.

Al Shabaab fighters then fired rockets at a plane on the ground, which caught fire, killing pilots Harrison and Triplett, who were under contract with L3 Technologies. Al Shabaab fighters destroyed five fixed and rotary wing aircraft and damaged another – all of them belonging to contractors. One of the planes destroyed was a highly modified Bombardier Dash 8 STAMP (SOCOM Tactical Airborne Multi-Sensor Platforms) surveillance plane, which was apparently used to track terrorists in the area.

A separate group of al Shabaab fighters fired on Camp Simba, adjacent to the Kenyan navy base where US forces are housed. The Camp Simpa Marines arrived at Manda Bay Airfield (Magogongi Airfield) about 20 minutes after the attack began; about half a dozen al Shabaab fighters were killed. Fighting continued throughout the day and it was not until evening that the area was declared secure.

Following the attack, US Africa Command took a series of steps to improve force protection at all locations on the continent, as identified by Africom and independent reviews.

The DoD said U.S. forces use Manda Bay to provide training to African partners, respond to crises, and protect U.S. interests. Africa Command assigns responsibility to US Air Forces-Africa for the integration of base support, including force protection at Manda Bay. Following the 2020 attack, various security improvements were implemented, including the clearing of vegetation around the airfield; establish a 360 degree defence; improving the defences, fighting positions and protection against indirect fire at Camp Simba; increase Kenyan participation in security operations; increased frequency and scope of patrols; and improving the communication function and capability of the Base Defense Operations Center.

The US military has operated out of Camp Simba/Manda Bay since at least 2004, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). By 2012, the base had been significantly modernized and the runway lengthened. The base hosts an average of 200 to 250 people, and apparently more than 500 during surges. In addition to using the airstrip as a launch point for aerial reconnaissance over neighboring Somalia, US forces used the main base as a training base for Kenyan and Somali forces. In 2017, the US Air Force assumed responsibility for Camp Simba/Manda Bay and created the 475th Expeditionary Air Base Squadron to oversee activities at Manda Bay.

“Serving in parts of Africa can be difficult and sometimes even dangerous,” Townsend said last week. “The threat from Al Shabab remains dangerous and real. Al Shabab is Al-Qaeda’s largest and deadliest arm, an enemy America knows only too well for its ambitions and appetite for destruction. What we do with our African international partners to counter violent extremism in Africa is more important than ever. We have a responsibility to Spc Mayfield, Mr. Triplett and Mr. Harrison, and are working every day to learn from this tragic event and to prevent an attack like this from happening again.

About Bradley J. Bridges

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