U.S. SENATE—U.S. Senator Martha McSally (R-AZ) stressed the need to improve security of U.S. assets in Africa following the Jan. 5 terrorist attack on a U.S. airfield in Kenya that left three Americans dead, including Dustin Harrison of Tucson.
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During a U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the military strength of AFRICOM/SOUTHCOM, McSally questioned General Stephen Townsend about reports that U.S. assets were not adequately secured at the airfield in Kenya.
“On January 5th, Dustin Harrison from Tucson was killed by al-Shabaab terrorists at Manda Bay in Kenya. His wife Hope and his two-year-old daughter Heaven are back home in Tucson grieving the loss of their husband and father,” McSally said.
“Now, I was part of the team to stand up AFRICOM as my last assignment in the military—one of the more challenging assignments I had—so I’m aware of the challenges you have on the continent. But some articles about the situation there say that it was a ‘woefully undefended perimeter’ and ‘surprisingly sparse’ security given the level of assets, air assests, you have there and I know an investigation is ongoing and I don’t want to put any more of our servicemen and women in harm’s way but what can you share about what’s happening today to make sure an attack like that is not happening in the future?”
General Stephen Townsend, Commander of AFRICOM, said: “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 and we’re digging into that to find out why that’s the case. Since that event, there’s about 120 infantrymen there on the ground now who are securing that place. They’ve been working hard since 6 January 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.”
Senator Martha McSally is a 26-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force. She is the first female fighter pilot to fly in combat and first to command a fighter squadron in combat in United States history. During her military career, McSally deployed six times. On her last assignment, she oversaw planning and execution of counterterrorism operations in Africa as a part of the initial leadership team to stand up AFRICOM.
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