The U.S. government has long viewed Kenya as a strategic partner and anchor state in East Africa, and critical to counterterrorism efforts in the region. The United States values Kenya’s role as a peacemaker among its neighbors and as a host to refugees from across the troubled region. Kenya is sub-Saharan Africa’s fourth largest economy; the country is a regional hub for transportation and finance and a top tourism destination. Its capital, Nairobi, is home to one of four major United Nations offices worldwide and serves as a base for regional humanitarian relief efforts. It also hosts the largest U.S. diplomatic mission in Africa. Kenya ranks among the top U.S. foreign aid recipients globally and is one of the largest African recipients of U.S. counterterrorism assistance. As the 2013 assault on Nairobi’s Westgate Mall underscored, terrorist threats against international and domestic targets in Kenya remain a serious concern. At the time, Westgate was the deadliest terrorist attack in Kenya since Al Qaeda’s 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassy. It was also the first successful large-scale operation in Kenya’s capital by the Al Qaeda-affiliated Somali insurgent group Al Shabaab. Al Shabaab has portrayed its attacks, in part, as retaliation for Kenya’s role in regional military operations in neighboring Somalia, and has sought recruits from Kenya’s minority Muslim population, both to fight in Somalia and to wage an insurgency in Kenya.
Date of Report: April 2, 2015
Order Number: IF10168
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