Pentagon: Security, command flaws allowed 2020 attack on base in Kenya

WASHINGTON (AFP): US officials said in a scathing critique Thursday that poor command, inadequate security and a “climate of complacency” prevented US forces from adequately repulsing a 2020 attack by militants in Kenya that killed three Americans.

Multiple US military commanders, speaking after the release of an independent review on findings about the attack on Manda Bay airfield and the attached Camp Simba US base, cited deficiencies and flaws including the negligence of several personnel whose inaction contributed to the vulnerability of the facility in East Africa.

Shortly before dawn on January 5, 2020, a disciplined, heavily armed band of 30 to 40 fighters of the Al Shabab extremist group stormed Camp Simba and attacked the airfield at Manda Bay, firing rocket propelled grenades at a vehicle killing its driver, and attacking a taxiing plane and killing two pilots.

They fired at least 10 mortars, destroyed seven aircraft, and engaged US forces in an hours-long firefight before they were driven off, US officials said.

“We were not as prepared at Manda Bay as we needed to be,” US Army General Stephen Townsend, commander of US Africa Command (AFRICOM), told reporters at the Pentagon.

“Poor unity of command” plagued the base, there was “inadequate understanding of the true threat” in the region and to the facility, security at key base locations was lacking, and forces were “insufficiently prepared for their mission,” Townsend said.

US Air Force Major General Tom Wilcox, who helped lead the investigation of AFRICOM’s findings of the attack, said his probe found that some senior officers “allowed a climate of complacency at the facility,” intelligence sharing was insufficient, and some senior officers were negligent in their duties.

But “while some individuals could and should have done better, the negligence of the individuals identified in the review was not the cause of the losses suffered in the attack,” Wilcox added.

“For mission command, it was found that flawed operational processes, and inadequate command and control at the tactical level, contributed to the outcome of the attack,” he said.

The officials said the deadly incident prompted an AFRICOM-wide review and suggested multiple improvements such as expanding training, bolstering physical defenses, improving communications and increasing Kenyan or other local participation in security operations.