By Gabe Joselow
Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga says Kenyan troops in Somalia will launch a “final onslaught” on the al-Shabab stronghold, Kismayo by August. Odinga told reporters in Nairobi Tuesday Kenya is seeking international support for the operation.
Encouraged by their recent success capturing the strategic town, Afmadow, from the Islamist militant group al-Shabab, Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga says troops are now consolidating for a long-anticipated assault on Kismayo.
“Our aim is to get to Kismayo by August, because Kismayo is the real major source of supply for al-Shabab and, without controlling Kismayo, it is very difficult to completely neutralize al-Shabab,” he said.
Kenya Defense Forces began operations in Somalia in October, in response to a wave of cross-border attacks and kidnappings that Kenya blamed on Somali militants. Following early successes on the ground in southern Somalia, Kenyan troops appeared to halt their forward progress toward Kismayo around January.
Military officials started mentioning the August timeframe last month, as Kenyan soldiers prepared to officially join the African Union force in Somalia, known as AMISOM.
The 11,000-strong force includes soldiers from Uganda, Burundi and Djibouti. Ethiopian forces are also fighting in the country and moving toward Kismayo.
Prime Minister Odinga said the assault on the port city will be an international operation.
“There are efforts to consolidate the international forces so that it becomes a multi-pronged approach, from the sea, from the land and from the air,” he said.
Odinga says his government has asked the United States to help fund the operations. The United States is already the biggest individual donor to AMISOM and has obligated nearly $340 million in assistance to AMISOM Troop Contributing Countries since 2007.
The prime minister says Kenya is also asking for assistance from the European Union naval force that guards against piracy off of Somalia’s shores.