Kenyan Forces Outperforming US Forces in War Against Islamists

Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam. He is completing a book on the international challenges America faces in the 21st century.


Kenya is claiming to have killed over 3,000 al-Shabaab fIslamist ighters in Somalia in one year while losing only 22 soldiers and one helicopter. Or rather the Somali Defense Minister is claiming that on behalf of the Kenyans.

If true, those are some pretty good numbers. The NATO ISAF forces in Afghanistan have erratic policies on enemy body counts so that no true number of Taliban killed is available. General McChrystal suspended body counts completely because they were no longer meant to be a metric of success. Petraeus on occasion brought them back.

In a departure from past practice, U.S. and Afghan commanders released data that showed they had killed 2,448 insurgents over the past eight months – a 55 percent increase from the same period last year.

As we can see from the Kenyan deployment in Somalia, those aren’t really worth bragging about. During those same periods in Afghanistan, NATO/ISAF fatalities ranged somewhere in the 400-500 range. Trading the lives of highly trained and valued First World soldiers against desert fighters at a 1/5 ratio when the firepower on the US side is vastly superior is not a good exchange. Those aren’t Tet Offensive numbers, but they’re bad enough.

The Kenyan military isn’t within spitting distance of the United States. The difference lies in the rules of engagement. In Somalia, Kenyan forces have casually bombed targets unmindful of civilian casualties. Meanwhile US forces are routinely denied air support and permission to engage enemy fighters.

Kenyan soldiers do not have to worry about being court martialed if they fire first. They don’t have to worry about being told to retreat or hide because their lives are worth less than winning the hearts and minds of the locals.

The United States crushed the Taliban initially with the ruthless use of force. And then wasted that victory by trying to patrol and secure the country on the ground. The Surge was a waste of manpower because it sent soldiers with little protection to confront a disposable morass of enemy fighters. And the outcome was completely predictable.

The Taliban were driven out of power with a handful of casualties. As the Rules of Engagement tightened, US casualties increased and defeat became inevitable. Kenyan forces are able to do in Somalia what American forces are not longer allowed to do in Afghanistan.

But there is a final irony to the whole affair. The Prime Minister of Kenya, Raila Odingo, is a cousin of Barack Obama.

  • http://twitter.com/undefined @undefined

    I disagree with u on two issues no one is claiming out performing another military and if there is one kindly name the name the person. Like any other military Kenyan soldiers are court martialed.

    • Drakken

      I think you have misunderstood, the reason why the Kenyans are winning is because they aren't afraid of killing jihadists, our troops are more afraid of being court martialed than being killed because it violates the insane rules of engagement.

    • HighPressure

      Our soldiers need a lawyer to engage the enemy… It isn't about duty to country now… it's about being politically correct even if you die. Our troops don't have the support they DESERVE. It is well… UNAMERICAN.

  • John K

    This article is simple short on facts and appears written solely for the purpose of discrediting the success accomplished in Somalia. The article cites no regularly incidences where civilians (unlike several well documented occurrences in Afghanistan and Pakistan which the writer fails to acknowledge) were indiscriminately killed in large numbers in Somalia. Kenya operates under more or less the same rules of engagement in Somalia as NATO does in Afghanistan. It is unfortunate that the author appears to be ignorant of the fact that AMISOM which the Kenya Defence Forces is participating in is a United Nations Security Council sanctioned peace enforcement mission just like ISAF under which the western forces operate in Afghanistan. The writer would be best advised to do further research and read about the KDF strategy that was all geared with winning hearts and minds first before moving on to new military gains against the Al Shabaab. The claim regarding a familial relationship between Obama and Odinga has long been discredited by none other than President Obama’s paternal uncle and explained away as a cultural term of reference and really has no relevance to whether the mission in Somalia was successful or not. Further to that the President of Kenya is the Commander in Chief of he armed forces and not the Prime Minister. A little basic research using independent news reports and numerous public sources of information reveals why AMISOM/KDF have been and continue to be successful in Somalia. Indeed one must then ask with the US having been in Somalia as part of UNOSOM I and II and having vastly superior fire power was not successful and ended up retreating, if the writer’s arguments are to be believed at face value. Give credit where its due, than try find ways absent of facts to undermine a success that stands up on its own right.

    • Drakken

      Well John, with all due respect, the Kenyans are killing the jihadist by the truckloads and they don't operate under western insane rules of engagement, and numbers killed is vastly underreported. So where your getting your information from is complete UN propaganda. The Africans don't have that aversion to wiping out their enemies as we do. I have seen this personally many times. We could take a lesson from them.

  • riverboatbill

    Gee,you'd think we would do better-what with having a Kenyan for Caliph-in-Chief.

  • HighPressure

    I beleive the story is more about the rules of engagement. Where the American Military has limited the way it's soldiers have to engage to the point it clearly unnecceraily endangers both the mission and the soldier to make some politician look good. Usually insitgated by a politician who neither cares about the troop and really wants the mission to fail.

    A name like Jack Murtha comes to mind.

    Even in Vietnam the Aussies and the South Koreans were less politically correct then us. You see their leftist traitors at home don't sway as much power as ours. How else does anyone explain John "rice schrapnel in the butt" Kerry had a political carreer let alone run for president? Because we tolerate evil leftisits.

  • Joan Opiyo

    Friends,

    I just created a new petition and I hope you can sign — it’s called: Block War Escalation in Somalia!

    This issue is very important to me, and together we can do something about it!

    Read more about it and sign it here:
    http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Block_Escalation

    Campaigns like this always start small, but they grow when people like us get involved — please take a second right now to help out by signing and passing it on.

    Thanks so much,

    Joan

    • HighPressure

      Joan,

      Are you not asking for "diplomatic solutions" with Islamic Warlords?

      If you look in other places in Africa, that has been a disaster. Just look at Sudan, the quest with Islamic Murderers for a diplomatic solution left 2 1/2 million dead, tortured, raped Christians. With the exception of maybe Uganda, no one cared in Africa. They certainly don't even want to get the slaves to be returned and insult the Arab Islamics.

      So how do you see a better solution by negotiation that won't lead to even more strife and death? What is going to be different?

      I'm serious.

    • Mary Sue

      That's rather a simplistic, naive idea you've got there, sorry to say. Petitions cannot stop wars. Words very rarely can, and only if the other side has a shred of morality/human decency. If they do not, all bets are off, all words fail, and war is inevitable.

  • Indioviejo

    Let us fund the Kenyan Army so they may continue to do good work in Somalia.

  • Amin Adan

    Somalia had enough of warlords and Islamic gangsters who kept us in the medieval times. Most of the warlords have died and Somalis sorted out their differences in clan issues. But since the 22 years of death and distraction, people have turned to god and religion like anyone with hardship does. But Al-Qaeda took the advantage and gave them a Saudi made Wahhabi Islamic concept that does not belong to Somalia or anywhere in Africa. This group spread violent concept of Islam while majority of Islam came to the rest of the world in peace through good character, honesty, trade and kindness. Somalia once more is in new civil war that has new phase. However, with the help of AMISOM, the Somali National Army was able to defeat Al-Shabab. Let’s not give the credit to anyone else but the Somali National Army which has done all the hard work. Kenya or Ethiopia has no role in Somalia. They came there as representatives of AMISOM, part of United Nations with a different agenda than that of Kenyan or Ethiopian governments. Their armies form AMISOM troops along with Uganda, Burundi, and Djibouti, which are supporting the Somali National Army. Kenya or Ethiopia cannot even feed their own people or solve their own home issues, how can they solve the Somali issue. Somali people thank the US, UK, Denmark, Japan, Turkey, and other donors including Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt for funding and training the Somali National Army and providing equipment and finance for AMISOM to defeat Al-Shabab. The main reason for success in Somalia against Al-Shabab is because its Somali led mission in addition to combined international efforts. The total AMISOM troops including Somali army is led by Somali chief in command. In the past, it was always a foreign person in control who did not understand what needs to be done. The good news is that Somalia is slowly recovering and soon will be standing on its two feet. Special thanks to all AMISOM countries for sacrificing their men in great numbers against a dangerous group. Somalis are very grateful and would have done the same if it was the other way round. I dream of a day when Mogadishu, Nairobi, Addis Abbaba, Djibouti, Kampala and other African capitals are linked by fast rail trains where there is no visa requirement to live and work in either countries. With one language, hopefully Somali as it’s a language spoken in Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Somalia and it’s easy to learn and it’s a business orientated language.

  • Davy

    It is very clear that the kenya defense forces won the war against al shabaab…..and who told you kenya cannot feed her people?!…..then how do they exist! You know most of western people don admit defeat!, now if i may ask, why the US didnt take part to eradicate shabaabs? May be they feared to be humiliated as it happened in 90s. Lets call a spade a spade!. Bravo! KDF