Nairobi Star - Hassan Ole Naado: Kenya Risks Going the Pakistani Route

In the absence of any tangible evidence to the contrary, many people in the world, courtesy of the media, agree that Afghanistan is today the most dangerous country in the world because of the ongoing military campaigns being led by the Nato forces against Taliban who seek to overthrow what they believe is a puppet government in Kabul.

Besides, it is believed the world's most wanted man, Osama bin Laden, and his Al-Qaeda terrorist network, were bred in Afghanistan and have their havens there.

In this regard, the reason the international community has focused on Afghanistan is because of the spillover effects that the conflict in that country has over neighbouring countries, and the potential of the conflict being exported to other countries of the world.

Nuclear-armed Pakistan is therefore the country that has borne the heaviest brunt of the conflict in Afghanistan, and as US President Barack Obama observed recently, the conflict in Afghanistan cannot be resolved without dealing with certain internal dynamics in Pakistan.

But one would ask; how did Pakistan get embroiled in the conflict in Afghanistan to the extent that it has to pay the heaviest price for the mess in its neighbour's backyard?

The answer is simple — analysts say that during the 10 years that the former Soviet Union invaded and occupied Afghanistan from 1979, Western powers, because of their ideological differences with the communist Russia-led USSR, used their financial resources and intelligence apparatus to assemble an insurgency group that would be deployed in Afghanistan in order to dislodge the Soviets from that country.

That insurgency group was to be named Taliban, and Pakistan, because of its complex border and ethnic relations with Afghanistan, was the country where the recruitment of fighters was conducted.

The recruitment of fighters involved bringing in young people from both Pakistan and other Islamic countries, training and deploying them for guerrilla attacks on Soviet forces in the Afghanistan.

Also, Al Qaeda was founded in Pakistan with the support of Western powers. The Arabic word 'Al Qaeda' simply means 'the base' or 'foundation.'

Pakistan was, therefore, the midwife of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. And the Western powers supported the creation of Taliban and Al Qaeda because they were not willing to come into a direct military confrontation with the Soviets. These were their proxy armies.

But after the collapse of the Soviet Union and subsequent withdrawal of its forces from Afghanistan, a huge number of well-trained fighters remained behind. And as tables turned and roles were reversed in the post-Soviet era, these fighters were recruited afresh to fight against what is perceived as the domination of Western powers over Islamic countries. The rest is history.

I have cited the foregoing example because recent reports in the media that youth from the North Eastern Province are being recruited to fight for the besieged Transitional Federal Government of Somalia are indeed worrying.

This could easily cause Kenya to pay the kind of price Pakistan is paying for its involvement in the Afghanistan conflict.

Despite denials by the authorities, credible sources say youths from the Somali community are being recruited and trained by Kenyan security agents for deployment in Somalia to assist the government of President Sheikh Sharif Ahmad fight off an insurgent assault from the Al-Shabaab militant group.

The government, which supports Sheikh Sharif's government, has been under immense persuasion to deploy its troops in Somalia to assist the TFG. But given the complex consequences of direct involvement in Somalia, it looks like the government could be seeking to assist the TFG through a proxy army, hence the latest recruitment of Kenyan Somali youths to fight for the TFG.

But this could be a very dangerous move because of the kind of consequences that Pakistan faces for having been used to establish the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

Kenya should worry itself about what may happen once the conflict in Somalia is resolved and leaves behind well-trained fighters who return home to become civilians.

It is in view of Pakistan lessons of that Kenya should approach the Somalia conflict with caution.

It would be prudent for the government to be neutral in the Somalia conflict, and if at all claims of recruitment of youths are true, then this should stop forthwith.

The writer is a Chevening Fellow and the CEO of the Kenya Muslim Youth Alliance.

This entry was posted in , . Bookmark the permalink.