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By Bernard Wainaina
CEO,Profarms Consultants®

Al-Shabaab appears to be prepared to fight a long war, perhaps for decades to come.

Kenya went into Somalia under code name Operation Linda Nchi, a quick-fix solution for what has turned out to be a complex, asymmetrical, long-running conflict.

It is now the fourth year since the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) went to Somalia, which begs the question: Is Kenya prepared to fight
in Somalia for years, the way Al-Shabaab seems intent on doing?

I am not suggesting that Kenya pulls out of Somalia blindly.

Conventional mechanisms used to stop and defuse conflict in one area can be the recipe that destabilises other regions.

Somalia is such an example.

Kenya’s involvement in that country brought some degree of sanity to a good number of

However, this has led to instability in Kenya.

It is time for Kenya to rethink its strategy.

The diffusion of global power allows states, non-state groups,terrorists, and individuals to shape global security.

The emergence of asymmetric wars characterises the quest for power as these actors fight for recognition, further complicating national and global security.

In Kenya, we have witnessed this in the attacks on Westgate, Baragoi, Mpeketoni, Mandera, and Kapedo.


In Nigeria, Boko Haram has used asymmetric tactics to instil fear — from the abduction of teenage girls to the massacre targeting innocent villagers.

Insurgency is normally successful when those waging a war are driven by strong beliefs attached to nationalism or religion.

Therefore, it is more difficult to fight such groups using conventional methods.

Yet organised states often know no other approach than working within the morality of
international law and rules of engagement.

Such groups that thrive in weak states, or those suffering instability, exploit the situation since they have nothing to lose.

Most organised states would feel reluctant to employ the strategies terrorism groups use because of the accompanying costs in terms of infrastructural damage, civilian casualties,
and economic losses.

The reason modern states often fall victim to insurgency is because they focus on fighting the tactics employed by terrorists instead of formulating strategies to defeat them.

Relying on conventional military power in a world of proliferating asymmetric opportunities can be self-defeating.

Fighting a war against a tactic rather than developing a clear plan to defeat a strategy is equivalent to playing into the hands of the enemy.

This means that conventional military strategy may no longer be the most useful way of winning wars and could even be a liability if not used with precision.

Responding to asymmetric threats creates new security demands involving military intervention and pre-emptive war, homeland defence, and peacekeeping and peace support operations.

In a world where asymmetries in conflicts are increasing, the efforts to increase security can, paradoxically, create more insecurity.


Terrorists may not have a problem with the indiscriminate killing of hundreds of civilians but modern states may not have the resolve to respond in the same fashion.

Refusing to follow the rules of engagement could level the playing ground for the different actors in a conflict.

The reasons state actors are unlikely to win against their non-state adversaries in asymmetric conflicts is that the former often
look for quick solutions and victories while the latter may be prepared to fight for long, which appears to be the case with Al-Shabaab and many other modern-day terrorist groups.

These groups have exploited the local and international media, including the internet, to sensationalise the visual consequences of their attacks and this has achieved their aim— creating a sense of defeat among the global audience.

News media, the internet, and other forms of mass communication have been used to draw attention to insurgency groups.

Asymmetric attacks may be limited in their physical effects but various media dramatically multiply the intended political impact on a global level.

Asymmetric conflict is a tactic in the exercise of power and the proliferating network of globalisation makes its use both more likely and dangerous.

“The African Story as told by Africans”.©African News Digest®

“The African Story as told by Africans”.©African News Digest®