Following a Jan. 5 terrorist attack at Manda Bay Airfield, Kenya, U.S. service members comprising part of U.S. Africa Command’s East Africa Response Force (EARF) deployed to secure the airfield and augment security.
Manda Bay Airfield, a Kenya Defense Force Military Base, is utilized by U.S. forces to provide training and counter-terrorism support to East African partners, respond to crises, and protect U.S. interests in a strategically important area.
The attack of the base began after an initial penetration of the perimeter. Kenya Defense Forces and AFRICOM personnel then repelled the al-Shabaab attack involving indirect and small arms fire. Shortly after, the EARF, comprised of Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division, arrived at the airfield.
“The EARF provides a critical combat-ready, rapid deployment force,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. William Gayler, director of operations, AFRICOM. “The EARF’s ability to respond to events spanning a vast area of responsibility provides a proven and invaluable on-call reinforcement capability in times of need.”
Al-Shabaab is a terrorist group that has repeatedly communicated an intent to attack U.S. interests. This is the same terror group that took more than 80 innocent lives in Mogadishu Dec. 28.
“Al-Shabaab is a brutal terrorist organization,” said Gayler. “It is an al-Qaeda affiliate seeking to establish a self-governed Islamic territory in East Africa, to remove Western influence and ideals from the region, and to further its jihadist agenda. U.S. presence in Africa is critically important to counter-terrorism efforts.”
Al-Shabaab senior leaders pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda and are believed to have trained and fought in Afghanistan. In 2008, the U.S. Government designated al-Shabaab as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. Historically, al-Shabaab has been willing to engage large forces, often using surprise and asymmetric tactics. The terrorist group has expressed the intent to attack the United States homeland and target Americans, but U.S. persistent pressure placed on them constrains their ability to carry out those desires.
Al-Shabaab has put out multiple press releases exaggerating the security situation on the ground. This practice has proven common place for this terror organization.
“Al-Shabaab resorts to lies, coercion, and the exertion of force to bolster their reputation to create false headlines,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. William Gayler, U.S. Africa Command director of operations. “It is important to counter al-Shabaab where they stand to prevent the spread of this cancer.”
Crisis response is only one part of the EARF’s mission. While one company of troops is always on call, many of the remaining service members provide security at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, or travel throughout East Africa to conduct training engagement and best practice sharing missions with CJTF-HOA’s partner nations. The EARF responds to a broad range of military operations including the protection of U.S. citizens and diplomatic facilities, support for non-combatant evacuation operations, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief operations, and other missions as directed.
"The 101st Airborne Division Soldiers, currently fulfilling the role as the East Africa Response Force, provide a unique capability to the combatant commander," said U.S. Army Col. Dave Foley, deputy commander-operations, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). "They offer speed, agility, and security to handle contingency actions, and this was demonstrated after the attack in Manda Bay, Kenya."