US Defense Secretary’s Visit to Manda Bay, Years Following Al-Shabaab Attack


NAIROBI, Kenya – The United States has been a significant force in deploying security personnel worldwide since the 2001 terrorist attack on American soil. Despite their involvement in various missions, US forces have rarely been targeted. While large-scale attacks have not been observed abroad, there have been instances, such as in Somalia, where Al-Shabaab militants attempted to infiltrate the Balligodle army base in 2019, which also houses Somali National Army [SNA] Special Forces.

However, a year later, the US Africa Command faced a significant challenge from Al-Shabaab militants at the fortified military base in Manda Bay, Kenya. This attack by the Al-Qaeda linked group marked one of the most severe encounters for US forces. In January 2020, the Airfield attack resulted in the deaths of at least three US citizens, including a serviceman. Questions were raised regarding the commitment of the Kenya Defence Forces [KDF] in repelling the attack, with claims that KDF soldiers “hid in the grass” while Al-Shabaab militants wreaked havoc.

Despite this incident, the US remains a vital security partner for Kenya in the fight against Al-Shabaab. On Tuesday, US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin III visited Manda Bay Airfield, where he commended the troops for their efforts in countering the Al-Shabaab threat. Austin expressed his gratitude for the soldiers’ dedication and sacrifices in the pursuit of lasting peace and security. He emphasized the importance of strengthening the relationship between Kenya and the US, which has been amicable.

Accompanying Secretary Austin was Kenya’s Defence Cabinet Secretary Hon. Aden Duale, who highlighted the visit’s purpose to fortify the existing bond and military ties between the two countries. He acknowledged that both Kenya and the US face similar security threats, necessitating strategic collaboration. Duale commended the troops from both nations for their collaborative efforts in promoting peace and stability in the region and beyond. He expressed gratitude to all the servicemen and women for their service, stating that their sacrifices have allowed the people to enjoy peace and freedom.

Also present during the visit were Commander Kenya Navy Major General Jimson Mutai, Commander Kenya Navy Base-Manda Brigadier Thomas Ng’ang’a, Chief of Strategic Policy and Plans at the Defence Headquarters Brigadier Edward Rugendo, and other senior military officers from both countries, as reported by KDF.