President Barack Obama’s trip to Kenya is raising security concerns, as while the country itself is relatively stable the surrounding region is a hostile environment.
Ahead of the President's visit around half a dozen air strikes have been conducted by the U.S. military in Somalia against Al-Shabaab, a militant group in East Africa that is an al-Qaeda affiliate.
The strikes come after U.S. intelligence suggested that an attack on Kenyan troops in the area was imminent.
Although the Pentagon is remaining silent on the matter, the strikes may be ushering in the President’s visit to the area.
A Rand Corporation analyst, Seth Jones states, “This sends a very clear message to Al-Shabaab not to try to attempt anything against the President.”
U.S. officials don’t expect Al-Shabaab to get anywhere close to the President, but there are other causes for concern.
In order to draw attention away from Obama’s visit and to show the weakness of the Kenyan government, Jones believes Al-Shabaab will attack more vulnerable targets.
Jones states, “What's most likely is not an attack against a U.S. government official like the President, but an attack that happens while the President is there”. Because the security around Obama will be so strong, Al-Shabaab will most likely target a soft spot as they have in the past.
Schools and shopping malls could be included in the list of possible locations, as the group has targeted them in the past.
U.S. officials acknowledge growing chatter via social media and Internet between the Somali extremist group about the visit. It seems they are all very aware of the event.
A Kenyan flight bulletin that outlines details of Obama’s trip has been released. This information includes when airspace in Nairobi will be closed for the arrival and departure of the President’s plane.
Although details such as these are kept private and withheld from the public, administration officials are saying there are no public details that would put the President at risk on his trip. U.S. forces are expected to stay highly engaged throughout the President's visit, which could mean further air strikes.