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US troops punished over 2020 attack on base in Kenya that killed 3 Americans

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III during a virtual meeting with 26 different military and veteran service organizations the Pentagon, May 5, 2021 (DoD photo by Chad J. McNeeley)
March 11, 2022

A Pentagon review released Thursday determined that a culture of complacency among U.S. troops led to the 2020 al-Shabaab attack on a base in Kenya that left one United States service member and two contractors dead. Multiple service members have been punished as a result.

While the review found “no single point of failure” nor criminal negligence could be identified as a culprit in the deadly incident, the review said the base and a nearby airfield fostered complacency among certain troops. “A number of personnel, both on the ground at CSL Manda Bay and certain leaders at echelon were negligent in the performance of their duties,” the report said.

The Air Force said Thursday that service members identified in the review were punished through “performance evaluations, decorations, unfavorable information files, and control rosters,” according to

“These actions can affect the individual’s career in terms of promotion eligibility, reenlistment, and assignments,” the Air Force said in a statement. “For the officers who were identified, regardless of the action taken, the findings of the investigation will be documented in their Officer Selection Record.”

The Air Force said it would not publicly reveal the names of the individuals who were punished, citing privacy concerns.

Army Gen. Paul Funk agreed that U.S. troops did not engage in criminal negligence or misconduct when it comes to the Jan. 2020 attack.  

“I concurred that the proximate cause of the death of three U.S. citizens, injuries to three other U.S. citizens, and the loss of U.S. aircraft and property was the attack by a masked force of determined, disciplined and well-resourced al-Shabaab fighters,” Funk said during a Pentagon briefing on Thursday.

“No single point of failure directly caused the loss of life and damage to the property at Manda Bay,” he said. “My review found that neither criminal negligence nor misconduct by any U.S. personnel was the proximate cause of loss of life or property at cooperative security location Manda Bay.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who ordered the review in 2021 in order to “ensure the department has a complete look at the causes of the attack,” accepted the review’s findings.

On Jan. 5, 2020, al-Shabaab, an al Qaeda affiliate, attacked an airfield in Kenya, breaching a poorly-defended perimeter before overrunning American and Kenyan forces.

U.S. Army Specialist Henry J. Mayfield Jr., and contractors Bruce Triplett and Dustin Harrison were killed in the attack.

One military official described the installation as “very relaxed, it’s very pretty” prior to the attack.

Another official said security at the base “was surprisingly sparse.”

“It’s such thick vegetation and such a large area, it wasn’t properly manned or equipped,” the official said.

A congressional source also commented on the vegetation surrounding the base and airfield and labeled the attack a “no-brainer.”

“This is a no-brainer that it would have been very easy for these guys to sneak up through the brush and get very close to the hangers before they were spotted,” the source said.