Monday, April 10, 2017

Did we Declare Victory Against Somali Pirates too Early?

Let's go back to the summer of 2014 and the article by Christian Bueger in The Georgetown Journal of International Affairs;
The pirates of Somalia have gone silent. There have been no successful Somali pirate hijackings reported in the past two years. Hollywood movies like Paul Greengrass’s Captain Philips, rather than news of actual attacks and ransom negotiations, now make the headlines. But is the threat of Somali piracy truly over? In May, the international Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia held its 16th plenary meeting at the United Nations in New York to discuss the endgame of the fight against piracy. The group, which is the central global governance entity organizing counter-piracy efforts, discussed how to restructure its counter-piracy response mechanisms and what measures will be required in the future. But as the Contact Group deliberations have made clear, the international community should not be so quick to declare victory in the war against Somali piracy. Although incidences of piracy in the region have decreased, sustained local and international efforts are still needed to prevent this trend from reversing.
At that time he outlined three reasons for the quiet on the piracy front off HOA;
First, the shipping industry has improved its self-defense measures. Commercial vessels now sail at higher speeds through high-risk areas, post additional watches, are protected with barbed wire, and follow the procedures of the so-called international Best Management Practices. Additionally, the majority of these ships employ armed guards on board.
Second, the international naval missions launched by NATO, the European Union, or unilaterally by individual nations have become more effective since the early days of counter-piracy operations. International cooperation between different missions works well, and national navies have become more experienced in conducting joint counter-piracy operations and handling piracy suspects. Until 2010, many piracy suspects were released after being apprehended. Now, however, naval personnel are skilled in arresting, collecting evidence on, and handing over piracy suspects.
A third factor contributing to this decline has been the rejection of piracy by local Somali communities, who have increasingly begun to view it as an illegitimate activity. The first generations of Somali pirates gained local support by presenting themselves as guardians of the coast and protectors of the Somali seas. Somali coastal communities no longer consider this justification valid. Indeed, many villages, including Eyl, the former pirate stronghold, have seen open protests against piracy. Community support is vital to pirates not only for recruitment but also to support the logistics of piracy operations, which require, for instance, the provision of food and water during lengthy ransom negotiations.
As spring of 2017 comes, where do we stand?

As reported by Jason Patinkin at FP;
After being all but stamped out by international naval forces following its late-2000s heyday, piracy has made a sudden return to the Horn of Africa. In the past month, there have been six suspected piracy incidents near Somalia, five of them successful, including three in the last week. That’s compared with zero successful attacks in 2016.

Three more murky maritime incidents off the coast of Somalia’s Galmudug state, where suspected illegal fishing vessels paid “fines” that may in fact have been ransoms, suggest that piracy has rebounded on a scale even larger than previously reported.
What happened? Well, go back to Christian's Three;
The resurgence of piracy in the Horn of Africa’s busy transport corridor comes when both anti-piracy forces and shipping companies have let down their guard. A NATO naval force pulled out of the Horn in December, citing the decline in pirate attacks, though a European Union force remains. Lawellin said that many cargo ships plying Somalia’s waters have also stopped taking basic precautionary measures, such as hiring armed guards on their ships and sailing at higher speeds farther from shore.
That's a start.

It is becoming clear that we only addressed the symptoms, but did little to mitigate the root cause. There actually is very little the West has the desire or innate ability to do to address the root cause, so perhaps there just needs to be a mowing of the grass and a longer lasting effort.

But with what and by whom? 

As Russia has NATO's (and naturally the EU's) navies looking to play catch-up, who will return to push the pirates back?

An opening and opportunity almost from central casting is in the offing and doesn't come along all that often on the international scene.

PLAN ... call your office. The US Navy cut its international teeth on Muslim pirates. There is a certain rhyme to it.

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