Military investigations found poor leadership, inadequate training and a “culture of complacency” among U.S. forces undermined efforts to repel a 2020 attack by militants in Kenya that killed three Americans, the U.S. told Associated Press of US officials familiar with the investigations prior to publication. conclusions, expected Thursday.
Two military reviews of the attack by al-Shabab militants are scathing in their findings that there were failures at all levels at Manda Bay airbase, where senior military officials said there were there was a “deep-rooted culture of a false sense of security”. The attack also injured three people and destroyed six aircraft.
Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, head of US Africa Command, who conducted the first review, told the AP that while no one’s actions caused the attack or casualties, reviews concluded that security, intelligence, training, and command failures contributed to the casualties.
And Air Force Maj. Gen. Tom Wilcox, who was part of the team that carried out the second review, said that “none of the oversights we found contributed to the root cause of the loss. of life or damage. However, we found that they potentially contributed to the outcome, to airfield vulnerabilities.
Defense officials said a number of Air Force personnel were vetted for possible disciplinary action and, as a result, eight received some form of administrative sanction, including reprimands writing and the loss of their certification. The eight range from junior enlisted airmen to officers below the general ranks. A written reprimand can end an officer’s career. Officials spoke on condition of anonymity to describe staff discipline.
The Manda Bay base in the Kenyan resort was overrun by 30-40 al-Qaeda-linked insurgents on January 5, 2020, marking al-Shabab’s first attack on US forces in the African country from the east. The pre-dawn assault sparked a protracted firefight and day-long struggle between American and Kenyan forces to search and secure the base.
The initial investigation into the attack was completed a year ago by US Africa Command, but last April Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered a new independent review led by Gen. Paul Funk, commander of the Army Training and Doctrine Command.
The new report largely mirrors the findings of the original investigation, but expands its scope. Both strongly criticize the inadequacy of security, training and surveillance at the base. Austin accepted the reports and their findings.
Manda Bay base has been used for years by the US military, but only became a full-time airfield in 2016, with an increase in personnel, aircraft and operations. Critics say the military never adjusted security to account for the increased use and was lulled into the fact that the base had not been attacked for 16 years.
Complacency, the Africom review said, permeated all levels and existed for several years.
The reviews criticized leadership at all levels, from the air force wing and security forces to special operations commanders and U.S. Africa Command. They found that there was insufficient understanding and concentration of threats in the region.
Townsend said a vague intelligence report before the deadly attack referred to al-Shabab planning to attack United Nations planes. But this report was not forwarded to the right people due to a lack of staff. .
He also noted: “We get them every day – al-Shabab will attack. Most of them never arrive.
Reviews also indicated that the various command and service units at the base did not communicate or coordinate well with each other or with local Kenyan forces.
As a result, at 5:20 a.m., 20-30 al-Shabab militants were able to sneak through a forest and fire rocket-propelled grenades at the Magagoni airfield at the base. Within the first two minutes, the RPGs killed the Army Spc. Henry Mayfield in a truck and killed two contractors, Dustin Harrison and Bruce Triplett, in a plane. Another soldier and a civilian contractor were injured.
About a mile further up the road, another small group of militants fired on Camp Simba, a section of the adjacent Kenyan naval base where US forces are housed.
Critics say the airfield security troops were unprepared to respond to the attack, and several never really engaged the insurgents. Instead, Marines from Camp Simba about a mile away responded first.
“Someone starts firing, and the Marines are going to go to the sound of the guns. And they did. They went up and they led the counterattack,” said Townsend, who traveled to Manda Bay three weeks ago.
It took the Navy Special Warfare team about 20 minutes to get to the airfield and begin fighting back against the militants, who had made their way to the airstrip and buildings.
As additional Kenyan and American security forces responded, al-Shabab attacked again. It took until midnight for the military to search the airfield and adjacent buildings and declare the area secure.
In interviews, Townsend and Wilcox said substantial changes and improvements had been made – some in the first hours after the attack and others that have continued and developed over the past year.
Almost immediately, army infantrymen were brought in for added security, and now the protective force is more than double the size it was during the attack. Fences and other barriers now surround the entire base, including Camp Simba. And there have been revisions to Air Force intelligence sharing and security training.
The Air Force now trains all deployed security forces together before they depart for the country, and it requires personnel to be more experienced in force protection to obtain senior jobs on bases.
In addition, the reviews recommended that a senior commander from each base be responsible for force protection for the entire installation, and that the commander could order the formation of all troops there. This would include units that may report to other commands – such as special operations forces or Space Force teams that may be housed at the base.