Author: Lauren Ploch Blanchard, Specialist in African Affairs
The U.S. government views Kenya as a strategic partner and anchor state in East Africa, and as critical to counterterrorism efforts in the region. Kenya has repeatedly been a target of terrorist attacks, and, as the September 2013 attack on an upscale Nairobi shopping mall underscores, terrorist threats against international and domestic targets in Kenya remain a serious concern. Kenya’s military plays a key role in regional operations against Al Shabaab in Somalia. The Al Qaeda-affiliated Somali insurgent group has claimed responsibility for the Westgate Mall attack ostensibly in response to Kenya’s military offensive against the group across the Somali border. The incident is the deadliest terrorist attack in Kenya since the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombing and the group’s first successful large-scale operation in the Kenyan capital. Kenya ranks among the top U.S. foreign aid recipients in the world, receiving significant development, humanitarian, and security assistance in recent years. The country, which is a top recipient of police and military counterterrorism assistance on the continent, hosts the largest U.S. diplomatic mission in Africa. Nairobi is home to one of four major United Nations offices worldwide.