09/23/2013 12:16 pm ET Updated Nov 23, 2013

How to Reply to the Nairobi Attack

In the days ahead much debate will take place in the political world over how to respond to the atrocious attack on the Nairobi shopping mall that left about 70 people dead and the civilized world in shock at the carnage that took place again innocent civilians.

Gunman from the al-Qaeda-affiliated Somali terror group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack. In terms of horror, there really is not much difference between this attack and other countries using chemical weapons against civilians. While the use of chemical weapons grabbed the attention of United States and its allies it is just as important that this latest incident that established a new landmark in the annals of terrorism not be allowed to serve as a future example. In the long run the consequences of such could affect the economies of the world in a similar if not greater way that the attacks against the airline industry.

It is vital that this sort of attack does not serve as a blueprint for the future. From an economic perspective a few more similar attacks like the one on the Kenyan mall could bring down the economies in a number of countries where the shopping mall has become the central nervous systems of the economy. And unless the reply sends a clear message to the perpetrators and their supporters, in all certitude there will be more such attacks in the future.

With that in mind it is important that the repost be well planned, coordinated and lethal. A simple punitive raid will not do the job, on the contrary, it will only encourage future attacks.

The manner in which to measure the carnage in Nairobi is really simple. There are two categories. Either a nation is shocked by what unfolded in the shopping mall or it is not. If it does then it should side with the nations that are willing to take action and prepare themselves to contribute to a combined effort to eliminate the threats posed to global stability and global economies.

That can only be achieved in a two-pronged attack: one is a military response the other one is an economic war against poverty in the country affected. Otherwise it would be the equivalent of sweeping the dust under the rug. Eventually it will come back out.

This is not going to be an easy task but it must be done. Military action alone would be counterproductive.

The first step involves gathering as much intelligence as possible on the group, its leadership, its structure and its finances. Trace the money flow, find out where it's coming from and cut it off to the extent that is possible and feasible. That should be followed by precise military operations with the aim of incapacitating the organization.

The attack against the shopping mall in Nairobi should be regarded as a bona fide declaration of war against the civilized world and the repost should be on the same scale. This is not just a skirmish, or a secluded battle. This is an all-out war targeting the civilized world.

Again, it must be said, carrying out military operation without addressing the root causes of this will solve nothing. Addressing the social economic-structure is the basis of resolving this crisis.

Time is of the essence. Allowing this situation to percolate will only increase the violence in the years ahead.
Claude Salhani, a journalist and political analyst is editor of His new book, Inauguration Day, is now available at