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GABORONE, Botswana — The US has donated 9.5 billion Kenyan shillings (US $92.4 million) to the Kenyan Defence Forces (KDF) to fund soldier training and new equipment acquisitions and sustain the counterterror war against Somali militant group al-Shabab.

Speaking at a July 25 joint press conference with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta at the end of his visit to Nairobi, US President Barack Obama said the fund is part of a broader bilateral security cooperation project meant to increase US military support for the KDF fight against terrorism in Somalia.

"Today we discussed deepening security cooperation between our governments and signed an action plan in which we will support Kenya's judiciary, police and border security," Obama said. "We also discussed broader efforts to counter violent extremism here in Kenya and around the world."

The new allocation is a 163 percent increase in US funding for the KDF counterterror war, up from 3.8 billion shillings donated for the same purpose last year. From the 9.5 billion shillings, an estimated 2.52 billion shillings will be used to provide for the Kenyan Rangers Regiment, a KDF special operations unit which is leading the fight against al-Shabab.

Among other projects, the money will be used to train, equip and provide logistical support for border security forces; support interagency intelligence sharing and gathering; and improve force protection by providing explosives detection equipment and troop carriers built to withstand improvised  bomb attacks.

Unnamed KDF officials told media in Nairobi that 1.9 billion shillings will be used to buy UAVs for use in border surveillance operations along the Somali border. Kenya says the porous border allows al-Shabab gunmen to enter Kenyan territory and carry out attacks such as the June 2013 siege of a Nairobi shopping mall, in which 67 people were killed. A similar attack at Garissa University near to the northeastern border with Somalia killed 147 people in April.

Al-Shabab says the attacks are aimed at forcing the KDF to withdraw from Somalia.

Apart from the US package, the KDF has an acquisition plan reflected in Kenya's 2014-2015 budget, which allocated $205.6 million for the procurement of 10 new military helicopters. An additional $12.6 million is for the refurbishment of three grounded Russian-made Mi-17 attack helicopters, while $11.4 million will be spent on leasing 10 helicopters for the Kenyan Police Service Air Wing to widen national airspace surveillance operations.

In 2013, the KDF mechanized unit acquired 76 Serbian-made armored personnel carriers; 32 were delivered by the end of 2014.

The Kenyan Navy will receive six new 4.7 meter-long rigid hulled inflatable boats by the end of 2016. In 2012, the US donated six used patrol boats to the Navy.

Defense market analysts project that Kenyan defense spending will increase up to 2019 due to its continuing engagement in Somalia. Training and equipment needs for border security forces and for border-monitoring intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets are also expected to contribute to increased defense spending.

Email: onkala@defensenews.com

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