Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Why the US Navy can’t stop the pirates

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Interesting article by Peter Pham in Foreign Policy:

Sunday’s dramatic rescue of Capt. Richard Phillips brings to a felicitous end an incident involving the most egregious assault on U.S. commercial shipping in two centuries. The last time maritime marauders were so bold, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison tasked the fledgling U.S. Navy and Marine Corps with taking the fight to the pirate havens along the "shores of Tripoli." This weekend’s incident highlights what the world’s best-trained military can accomplish under the right conditions. But it also underscores the limits of force in the face of a seemingly intractable challenge posed by the Somali pirates.

According to the International Maritime Bureau, 111 of the 293 incidents of piracy or armed robbery at sea in 2008 took place off the coast of Somalia — double the number from the preceding year. And 2009 is hardly off to an auspicious start. In spite of poor meteorological conditions — hardly favorable for maritime forays — there have already been more than a dozen seizures so far this year.

The pirates aren’t just getting lucky. Indeed, Somali piracy is quite the opposite of the helter-skelter often portrayed in the media; it is a highly structured enterprise built around a number of syndicates. Pirate bases in Eyl, in the northeastern Puntland region, and in Xarardheere, in central Somalia, stand out for their audacity and for the resources they command. The syndicates operate "mother ships" far offshore that serve as long-range platforms for the speedboats that attack commercial vessels; they own depots along the coast where the pirates resupply before bringing captured boats to their main bases; and they coordinate the networks to support pirate operations on land. A report to the U.N. Security Council last month by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon plaintively conceded that "these groups now rival established Somali authorities in terms of their military capabilities and resource bases."

Not only are the Somali pirates well-organized, but they have proven to be highly resilient to changes in the strategic environment. As I warned in an analysis two weeks ago, the pirates have not been intimidated by the international naval force that has assembled to prevent a repeat of last year’s hijackings. Instead, they have shifted their operations to less patrolled areas, with strikes increasingly taking place farther and farther from the coast, on the high seas of the western Indian Ocean. The attempted seizure of the Maersk Alabama, for example, took place approximately 240 nautical miles southeast of the Somali shore. Mother ships, which resemble fishing vessels, have also worked hard to confuse antipirate patrols by avoiding the Somali coast altogether, docking instead at ports in other countries for refueling and resupplying (the U.N. report identified Al Mukalla and Al Shishr in Yemen).

Historically, piracy has been …

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Written by Leisureguy

14 April 2009 at 9:32 am

Posted in Daily life, Government, Military

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