The head of U.S. Africa Command is looking at security at all bases hosting U.S. troops on the continent following the deadly Jan. 5 attack on a base at Manda Bay, Kenya, which killed Army Spc. Henry Mayfield Jr. and U.S. contractors Dustin Harrison and Bruce Triplett.
“Al Shabaab has shown their reach and the danger that they pose and I think we need to take that seriously,” Army Gen. Stephen Townsend said during Thursday's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. “And so I am looking with a clear eye at every location in Africa now.”
Townsend's comments came in response to questions from Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), who mentioned that media outlets have reported that Manda Bay was sparsely defended.
McSally, who noted that Harrison was from Tucson, asked Townsend what steps he the command is taking to prevent such deadly attacks from happening in the future.
Townsend acknowledged that the U.S. military was “not as prepared there at Manda Bay as we needed to be,” but he did not provide details because the matter is under investigation.
“They were able to get access to that airfield, kill three Americans and destroy six aircraft there,” Townsend said. “So we weren't as prepared. We're digging into that to find out why that's the case.”
Read Gen. Townsend's remarks on base security below:
“I think it's self-obvious we were not as prepared there at Manda Bay as we needed to be. Al Shabaab managed to penetrate onto that airfield. A lot of people don't know but the base where our troops live is not where the airfield is.
But they were able to get access to that airfield, kill three Americans and destroy six aircraft there. So we weren't as prepared. We're digging into that to find out why that's the case.
But since that event, there's about 120 infantrymen there on the ground on the ground now who are securing that place and they have been working hard since Jan. 6 to put in the appropriate level of defenses.
So I'm confident that by the time they're done, Manda Bay will be much more properly defended.
We're not just stopping there though. We're looking across the continent because I think that we viewed – and the Kenyans viewed – Manda Bay as a safe area. The Kenyans have family housing there for their military. It's a resort area.
So al Shabaab has shown their reach and the danger that they pose and I think we need to take that seriously. And so I am looking with a clear eye at every location in Africa now.”