House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith recently concluded a trip to Kenya to assess issues surrounding security, particularly progress in joint U.S.-Kenyan efforts to combat the terrorist organizations Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Al Shabaab.
"The United States and Kenya have a shared value in democracy, and face common threats in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and Al Shabaab," said Ranking Member Smith. "By working together, we can strengthen the institutions of governance here, and work to eliminate the external factors that pose a threat to Kenya as well as to the United States. The challenges the Kenyan people face are complex, but the leadership here is sound, and the resolve of the people is strong. I met with a wide range of citizens and leaders from across Kenya, and their commitment and dedication to improving the quality of life of and security for the Kenyan people is unquestionable."
Al-Shabaab, a Somalia-based militant Islamist group, has been terrorizing the people of Somali and the region for years and was formally recognized as part of al-Qaeda in 2012. The group controls large swathes of land in southern parts of Somali and continues to recruit and orchestrate attacks within Kenya and throughout the region. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is a similar violent extremist organization, primarily active in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, but also aggressively working to expand its operations in Somali and the Horn of Africa. Together, these two groups represent a threat to the United States, and the stability of the entire region.
To help provide for the security and stability of Kenya -- a burgeoning democracy and growing economy - the United States provides equipment and training to Kenyan security forces, both civilian and military, and actively promotes economic development as a means to support continue progress. According to the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. assistance strategy is built around five broad objectives: advancing shared democratic values, human rights, and good governance; fighting disease and improving healthcare; fighting poverty and promoting private sector-led prosperity; cooperating to fight insecurity and terrorism; and collaborating to foster peace and stability in East Africa.
As co-chair of the effective foreign assistance caucus, part of Smith's trip also focused on USAID and development projects, which help promote long-term stability. For example, Smith visited with Feed the Future, a USAID program designed to combat global hunger and promote food security, where the group was working to develop hybrid corn and drought tolerant sorghum, a type of grass that grows in harsh environments and can serve as a stable source of food.
On the trip, Smith met with key leaders including the Minister of Defense, Mohamed Yusuf Haji, and business and trade groups, such as the Kenya Private Sector Alliance, and Kenya Association of Manufacturers. Other meetings included the Security and Defense Cooperation, Members of Parliament, including Speaker Kenneth Marende, women, youth, religious, and peace groups to discuss preparations for Kenya's 2013 election, prospects for instability, and key issues that will influence prospects for peace.