Archive for the 'Somalia' Category



U.S. Assessing Response to Pirating of Quest

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 8 months ago

From The Boston Globe:

Somali pirates have hijacked the yacht of an American couple who traveled the world handing out Bibles, and the US government said yesterday it was assessing possible responses.

Pirates hijacked the yacht Quest on Friday, two days after a Somali pirate was sentenced to 33 years in prison by a New York court for the 2009 hijacking of the Maersk Alabama. That incident ended when Navy sharpshooters killed two pirates holding the ship’s captain, Richard Phillips.

The Quest is the home of Jean and Scott Adam, a California couple who have been sailing around the world since December 2004, according to a website they keep. Two other Americans were also believed to be on board.

The couple — who are members of the Marina del Rey Yacht Club in California — run a Bible ministry, according to their website, and have been distributing Bibles to schools and churches in remote villages in areas including the Fiji Islands, Alaska, New Zealand, Central America, and French Polynesia.

The yacht is expected to reach Somalia today. A US military spokesman said: “We’re aware of the situation and we continue to monitor it.’’

“All relevant US agencies are monitoring the situation, working to develop further information, assess options, and possible responses,’’ said Matt Goshko, a US Embassy spokesman in Nairobi.

It’s a shame that this particular situation occurred to a missionary couple who have no money for ransom payments like a huge corporation would.  And just to be clear, it’s entirely possible that the U.S. deploys yet another SEAL team who performs near miracles to obtain their safe release just as with the Maersk Alabama.

I will applaud the rescue if that exigency obtains.  However, just to be equally clear, even if this does happen, it doesn’t in any way speak to my main thesis that until the swamp is cleared out, piracy will continue to happen, and deployment and logistical support of SEAL teams to deal with every instance of piracy of U.S. citizens and/or vessels is completely infeasible and unsustainable in the long term.

New al Qaeda Recruits Gravitate to Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 5 months ago

We pointed out over a year ago that by early 2007, new al Qaeda recruits were heading for Pakistan rather than Iraq.  This trend has been growing, and yet Yemen is also heavily in the mix.

The flow of foreign militants to Pakistan worries Western governments, which fear the south Asian country has replaced Iraq as the place to go for aspiring Islamists planning attacks on the West …

The goal today for these young men is to fight U.S. forces in neighbouring Afghanistan or to gain the skills to carry out attacks back home in the Middle East, Africa or the West.

Now, porous borders, corrupt officials and inventive smugglers mean a determined foreigner has little problem simply entering Pakistan, experts say, although reaching a camp in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas can be harder due to U.S. drone attacks and tougher security checks by militant groups.

Counter-terrorism experts also say that Somalia and Yemen are also emerging as destinations for aspiring al Qaeda fighters.

Rob Wainwright, Director of the European Union police agency Europol

“We see a pattern which shows Afghanistan and Pakistan seem to have replaced Iraq as preferred destinations for volunteers wishing to engage in armed conflict … We still see that recruits travel to training camps as part of their radicalisation process.

“Those who get training on the Pakistani-Afghan border are from various backgrounds — for example European converts and persons with Arab, North African and Turkish backgrounds.”

Richard Barrett, coordinator of the U.N.’s al Qaeda-Taliban monitoring team.

“Training over the last couple of years has typically taken place in small compounds which you find throughout the area of northwest Pakistan, rather than in large purpose-built camps. I have also heard of it taking place in apartments or houses in places like Karachi. It is hard to spot and quantify.”

Brian Glyn Williams, Associate Professor of Islamic History at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth.

“I’ve seen epitaphs of Kazakhs, Turks, Azerbaijanis, and Uzbekistanis on recent jihadi websites (related to the Afghanistan-Pakistan conflict zone).

Raphael Perl, Head of the Action Against Terrorism Unit at the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

“There’s no question that people are still going and the campaign to recruit people has intensified greatly.

“A small percentage go into active operations immediately. Some are just used for cannon fodder, in that part of Asia. And some of the very capable ones are sent back and told blend into society.”

Noman Benotman, Libyan former anti-Soviet fighter in Afghanistan.

“I think the message many Arabs receive from al Qaeda leaders nowadays is – don’t come here (to Pakistan). We don’t need you here: Go to Yemen’.”

“And we have seen a move to Yemen, mainly by Saudis, to strengthen the al Qaeda base there. It represents a big danger.”

Pakistan is front and center in terms of the training and indoctrination of globalist Jihadi fighters, and the three locations to which they are being sent, if not for their homelands to lay low until used, are Pakistan / Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia.  Finally, there has been an evolution in the training of the jihadists.

Mustafa Alani, Gulf Research Centre

(Whether in Pakistan or Yemen), the major al Qaeda investment is in recruitment, not training. Most action now involves suicide bombers or exploding a car by remote control. This mainly requires influencing the mind of the subject, while most of the physical training can be done in a room. The old-style camps we saw on the publicity videos, where fighters climb over obstacles or go across fires, are mostly in the past. The groups have passed this stage. Now it is about how to evade things like monitoring in an airport. And that is a response to the new technology of counter-terrorism.”

There is good news and bad news.  First the good.  The drone attacks have been at least moderately successful, and so the recruits have been driven indoors or onto smaller compounds.  This means that classical guerrilla warfare conducted with hit and run attacks by small arms fire, small munitions, and so forth, may be training that the recruits have not had.

Now for the bad news.  The new recruits may know how to avoid detection in transit, and may in fact have uttered vows of death as they strap suicide bombs to themselves.  And for more bad news.  The recruits who are sent to the front lines in Pakistan or Afghanistan learn guerrilla warfare with haste.  There is no replacement for human intelligence, and we must be pursuing direct knowledge of these operations.

Response to SOF and Piracy

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 6 months ago

So Andrew Exum is mad, or so it seems, over a recent post on piracy and our preferred model for comprehensively addressing the problem (although he doesn’t mention us by name, a rather awkward exigency in this debate).

I do not have the time to explain the training, missions, and capabilities of our nation’s special operations forces. To even those without a security clearance or any relevant military or policy background, the value of these forces should be gobsmackingly obvious. And anyone who has closely read what I have written knows that I — far from being “obsessed” with special operations forces — have been quite critical about their employment in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. This criticism is based on both personal experience and a careful study of policies and operations.

No, an average platoon of Marines or Army light infantry does not have the capabilities or the training to carry out the missions executed by Army Rangers, Navy SEALs, and other SOF (to include the SMUs). That’s okay. Because in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the so-called “general purpose” forces are the ones responsible for carrying out the main effort. But parachuting into the middle of the Indian Ocean, swimming to the USS Bainbridge and then shooting three pirates from a boat that is rocking up and down and side to side is pretty effing difficult. If this operation to rescue Richard Phillips isn’t the damn poster child for why we need special operations forces — and why it’s important that those forces are able to work in tandem with normal U.S. Navy and U.S. Army forces — I don’t know what is.

Sorry. I usually don’t go off like that. But I have been holding my tongue for three days. And I don’t get angry when genuine subject matter experts respectfully criticize me on issues about which they know more than I — think Josh Foust on Afghanistan — but do when others attack me in a know-it-all fashion about things they don’t have any experience in or knowledge of.

To be completely fair, readers should see all of Exum’s response.  Also, one particular comment on this post helps explain the debate fairly well.

so (sic) in fairness, the asshat who said “Andrew Exum’s idea to dispatch SEAL teams is absurd” seems to be criticizing the strawman idea of solving the whole piracy problem using SEALs, as opposed to this particular hostage situation. which is still asshat-ism but a somewhat different form than is implied here.

I’ll try to be clinical and not proscribed in my response.  I think Andrew (and also this commenter) missed the point, but the comment makes the response easier.  I am happy that the Captain of the ship is in safe hands tonight.  But the issue to me is not and has never been the capabilities of SOF versus anyone else, what one team of warriors is capable of versus the next, what one billet entails versus the next, and so on.  The argument has never been to send the wrong people to do the wrong job.  It is that we shouldn’t be doing the wrong job in the first place.

At the risk of sounding caustic, calloused and uncaring, this rescue helped no one but the Captain of the ship who was held hostage.  Whether the specific sequence of events is a precursor to more violence is also irrelevant.  The point is that it will not be a deterrent to more piracy.

The commenter helps the discussion by pointing out that this was a so-called “hostage situation.”  Ah … hostage situation indeed.  And aren’t they all?  In what situation could pirates abscond with a vessel, take control over the ship’s crew, demand ransom, and it not be considered a hostage situation?

The sum of the problem is the aggregate of the “hostage situations.”  The number of “hostage situations” is increasing yearly in the Gulf of Aden, and in fact in spite of the celebratory mood over this specific rescue, at the present moment at least twelve ships with more than 200 crew members are being held by Somali pirates.

The argument doesn’t go to the capabilities of SOF, Army, Marines, Navy or FBI (who were involved in the “negotiations”) or who knows more about what.  The argument centers on what the ailment is and what should be prescribed to cure it.  Quite obviously as I have pointed out, performing this kind of operation on every piracy event, or to put it in other terms, “hostage situation,” is quite out of the question.  It is unsustainable in terms of logistics, force size and expense.

So the problem was analyzed to be the psychological predilection towards conducting acts of piracy, at least, that’s the way I saw it.  To this problem, conducting SOF raids and cloak and dagger rescues of specific “hostages” won’t affect the proclivities of the ones conducting the piracy.  A much different solution is needed, one that recognizes the nature of the illness.

When Exum gets angry about the fact that I don’t know as much as him about so-and-so, he doesn’t pause to consider the fact that I might wholeheartedly agree with him.  And why shouldn’t I?  I don’t.  But I have come to a different diagnosis of the malady, and thus I would prescribe a different treatment.  In fact, I have, in Piracy: The Only Solution and Somalian Piracy.  It might seem barbaric to some, and some may choose for piracy to exist rather than implement the solution to it, an outcome I both understand and pity.

Finally, another way of summarizing this whole issue might to be quote Admiral Rick Gurnon.

Few expect that death of five pirates in three days will make Somali pirates think twice. Dire poverty and the collapse of the Somali state mean piracy is “a business model that works for them,” said Rear Adm. Rick Gurnon of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Bourne – the school that trained Phillips – during a press conference Sunday.

“I don’t think this will have any deterrent value at all,” he added.

Instead, he quoted Thomas Jefferson, who spoke of the scourge of piracy at the beginning of the 19th century – and the need to hit the pirates in their home bases on land. “It was said, ‘It’s easier to go after the wasps’ nest than swat the wasps.’” Admiral Gurnon said.

Knowing how hard it has been and will be to conduct COIN operations in two theaters at once, I have spoken against nation-building in Somalia at this point in time.  But there is no comparing poverty with the multi-million dollar ransoms that we have seen with Piracy.  They aren’t attempting to feed their families.  They want to get rich.  In order to change the proclivities of the pirates, they must believe that their profession will kill them.

One final observation is in order.  The comments to this post don’t really challenge the author.  A professional military blog is not complimented when the commenters sound like apparatchiks.  The commenters should refrain from emotional outbursts and pejorative language and concentrate on the main points.  That is what I have done in this response.

Somalian Piracy

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 6 months ago

Piracy: The Only Solution, was written following six months of following the issue of piracy in and near the Gulf of Aden.  The reaction to this article and other developments in piracy (and Somalia) are both instructive and interesting.  While not comprehensive, the following reactions give us a primer on how to see the situation going forward.

Glenn Reynolds linked Shannon Love who said that “as with terrorism, the return of piracy indicates the collapse of international law and the liberal order it establishes. It tells us how dysfunctional international law has become.”  Friend of The Captain’s Journal Raymond Pritchett, a good analyst, tireless blogger and manager of Information Dissemination (and who has been given props by Military.com), has been involved with in a tet-a-tet with TCJ for some while over the answer to piracy.  He is an all around good guy and nice enough to link our answer,  and not only in the comments section, but later in another article, points out that the Somalian problem is much larger than merely piracy.  It is a failed state, and Raymond seems to be pointing to a larger, more costly counterinsurgency and state building campaign.

Tigerhawk, who was nice enough to link our response to him, asks what Obama is going to do about the situation.  This is not dissimilar to the response by Jules Crittenden, but Jules gives us specific recommendations.

… sink the boats. Declare Somalia’s coast to be a no go for boats of any kind. Offshore or tied up at the dock. On trailers, on the beach. Send whatever airframes may be appropriate to the task … UAVs, helicopters, Warthogs, F-16s, whatever … and destroy every boat along the coast. Wait a day or two, repeat. Wait a week or two, repeat. Destroy any boat launch, repair, storage or harbor facilities as may exist while you’re at it. A few quick Marine shore parties, naval missile barrages and close-in naval raids may be helpful.

Some people who might consider all this violence abhorrent, who might protest that the pirates are simply victims of dysfunctional society themselves, might suggest we engage in less distasteful methods to restore government, law and a legitimate economy to Somalia. But Somalia has proven highly resistant to this, so interim measures are needed to contain the lawlessness onshore. Obama can propose a big Somalia bailout down the road if he wants.

Jules is clear, but his counsel is not as visceral as ours was.  Send in the Marines on LCACs, or CH-46s and CH-53s, fastrope onto the boats, shoot them with sniper fire, and kill all of the pirates.  The ones who survive the ensuing fire fight are to be lined up at the rail and shot in the head, bodies dumped overboard.  The whole event is to be taped and published to the world so that they will know how we deal with pirates.  It is the most humane way of dealing with piracy, because without this kind of action piracy will continue, hostages will be taken, money will be spent, and trade and Maritime operations will be interdicted.

But the issue with Jules’ and Tigerhawk’s articles is that they both point to the Obama administration and what their response is going to be.  True enough, the current administration has been weak on foreign policy, but as we have pointed out, the previous administration did little to address the issue either.  In fact, in our original post, we noted a conversation we had with a Marine who had just come back from the 26th MEU, and who had a pirate in the sights of his Sasser .50 Caliber sniper rifle on board a CH-53.

“Did you take the shot,” I asked him?  “No,” he answered.  “RoE.  Who wants to have lawyers put him in jail when he gets back to the States?”

As stated above, Information Dissemination and Tigerhawk linked this response, but no other blogs or Main Stream Media reports.  How does this happen?  How does original reporting come from a recently deployed Marine and get ignored, while extraneous political observations get published, republished and circulated ad infinitum?  It isn’t an issue of blog traffic.  It’s an issue of influencing policy.

Continuing, there might now be a justification for wondering how firmly the current administration will deal with the situation.

An attack against al-Shabab camps in southern Somalia would mark the administration’s first military strike outside the Iraq and Afghanistan-Pakistan war zones. The White House discussions highlight the challenges facing the Obama team as it attempts to distance itself from the Bush administration, which conducted at least five military strikes in Somalia. The new administration is still defining its rationale for undertaking sensitive operations in countries where the United States is not at war.

Meanwhile, the FBI has decided that the original ship is a crime scene.  Also, the French have “stormed a yacht held by pirates elsewhere in the lawless stretch of the Indian Ocean in an assault that killed one hostage but freed four. Two of the pirates were killed and three captured.”

“Crime scene.”  “Failure in international law.”  Not only is the reversion to national and international courts, treaties and agreements dangerous, it’s more than a little bit creepy.  Someone in the Hague, or Spain, or Italy, or Washington, is going to decide what to do with Somalian pirates when Somali is an utterly failed state, the pirates don’t fear the Kenyan courts or the Americans?  Or worse, they will decide what to do with Americans who decide what to do about piracy.  The French, oddly, are stronger than the U.S. has been, but will be sorry for the expense, time and trouble for having captured their pirates rather than killing them.

Raymond at Information Dissemination also links Mattew Yglasias who wants the U.S. to ensure stability in Somalia as an antidote to piracy.  Strange.  Yglasias, who has been no friend of the counterinsurgency campaign in Iraq, now wants us to engage Somalia in one while we are at the same time engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan.  This is juvenile and politically crass and self-serving, and Raymond is far too smart to listen to Yglasias and his boy-followers.

In the end, it is infeasible to launch another full blown counterinsurgency campaign in Somalia or anywhere else with two campaigns ongoing at the present moment.  The piracy problem is not now and has never been an issue of failed states or dysfunctional international law.  It’s an issue of force and fear.

While it is both sad and brave that the Captain of the Maersk Alabama is currently captive to the pirates, the U.S. must not and cannot negotiate with them.  The real failure is that by the time it gets to this point there are no easy or clinical solutions to piracy.  The failure has already occurred.

The solution is to engage them in a fire fight, line the surviving pirates up at the rail, shoot them in the head, videotape it, release it to the world, and inform the world that this is the way we deal with pirates.  Then the problem will be solved.  Or did we already say that six months ago?

Finally, Desert Sailor over at Information Dissemination comments:

As you know, I’m kinda a simple guy, so simple solutions always seem best to me, must be the connection to the War of 1812 that flows in my DNA.

Hersh has it.

Kill em.

Send in DEVGRU, secure the good Captain, get the Maersk Alabama to her destination. Blue NSW has some little friends called MkVs, open season for them, park a ‘phib out yonder for support. Meanwhile, est a Predator overwatch from HOA duty, let DEVGRU continue un-hindered. Bring 1 ESG in for MEU effect and then task every outbound CSG to “unload” their magazines along that stretch of pirate infested shore.

Always better to unload ammo through the barrel than offload at the pier.

Be “joint” – allow the USAF the opportunity to offload their BUFFs and BONES prior to RTB Diego.

This ain’t hard. Breakin Shi’ite and killing folks that killin’ has been our mission set for 233 yrs.

Politics and UN based ROE will stymie any effort towards simplicity. Sad.
DS

Ah.  Someone else gets it.

Piracy: The Only Solution

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 6 months ago

Somali pirates recently hijacked a U.S.-flagged cargo ship with 20 Americans on board.  Apparently the crew retook the vessel, but the pirates still have hostages in their custody along with a lifeboat that is out of fuel.  In any case, the valuable information concerning Somali piracy has nothing to do with the specific details of this particular incident.  The most interesting place to start is with a quick survey of the reactions across the web.  As we survey the reactions, my hypothesis is that piracy exists because we want it to.  But more on that later.

The involvement of Americans and a U.S.-flagged vessel brought much more attention to the issue of piracy than typically given to it in the past.  Tigerhawk wants to know why the fact that it was a U.S.-flagged ship wasn’t enough deterrence and what Mr. Obama is going to do about the situation, even with the apparent self-rescue of the ship’s crew?  Andrew Exum links the story without much to say, but stays devoted to his obsession with Special Operations Forces with his post title Calling all SEAL Teams.

The clearest prose comes from Galrahn at Information Dissemination, when he points out that Littoral Combat Ships are “terribly designed to fight pirates,” because “We fight pirates with boarding parties, which means sailors, and we fight war in the littorals with helicopters, and the LCS can only support 1 H-60.”  Just so.  Galrahn also has a very detailed post about the difficulty of fighting piracy in the Gulf of Aden given the hidden nature of the pirates.  They never announce themselves as such until just in time to hijack a ship.  Until then, there are merely fishermen.  Galrahn’s post is required reading for everyone who wants to understand what we are and aren’t doing about piracy.

In the end, though, it isn’t quite as difficult as Galrahn makes it out to be, Tigerhawk comes too late to the discussion, and Andrew Exum’s idea to dispatch SEAL teams is absurd.  The real problem is somewhat simpler and yet more difficult to solve.

There is nothing new about piracy in the Gulf of Aden, and we have been covering and commenting on it for at least six months.  While The Captain’s Journal finds it very easy to criticize Mr. Obama, the issue of piracy didn’t begin with him, and although he could demonstrate strength and resolve and end it quickly - an unlikely exigency – President Bush didn’t do much to end the threat either.

Exum’s idea to dispatch Navy SEALS is simply silly, for at least (but not limited to) the following reasons: [a] Use of Navy SEALS who are experts in the use of Drager rebreathers and underwater demolitions is a terrible misuse of their forces, [b] they would have no platform from which to operate, and [c] there are far too many pirates for them, or another way of saying it is there aren’t nearly enough SEAL teams for the pirates.

Galrahn’s misgivings about the capabilities of the LCS to address piracy are spot-on, but his misgivings about our overall capability to deal with piracy is somewhat less accurate.  The USS San Antonio did in fact have pirates in their possession before deploying back to the States after the 26th MEU.  The USS Iwo Jima had LCACs, and this picture shows that it is easy enough to shoot from the sides of the LCAC.

Marines qualify on the rifle with iron sights at 500 yards, so they could have easily handled pirates from an LCAC.  The USS Iwo Jima and San Antonio both had helicopters, including the CH-46 shown here training with the 26th MEU.

Colonel Desens observes that even with the advent of the V-22 Osprey, the CH-46 will be in service for many years to come.  “The CH-46 is a proven technology. It is one of the most reliable aircraft in the inventory. It is stable and provides the perfect platform for things like fastroping, which will be problematical with the Osprey. Also, it is metal. Which means if it gets shot full of holes it is an easy fix, while the MV-22 will not be so easy.”

And so Colonel Desens gives us another means of delivering Marines to pirates: fastroping from the CH-46.  There is also the CH-53 Super Stallion.

In fact, I had a chance to talk extensively with one Marine who had pirates in the sights of his Sasser .50 caliber rifle while on board a CH-53.  “Did you take the shot,” I asked him?  “No,” he answered.  “RoE.  Who wants to have lawyers put him in jail when he gets back to the States?”

From Harrier VTOL aircraft, to CH-46s (and fastroping), to CH-53s, to LCACs, and then to actually landing on the shores of Somalia to hunt down pirate domiciles (assuming good intelligence), there is almost no end to the possible tools that could have been used to perform counterpiracy operations with the 26th MEU and Fifth Fleet.

But it requires commitment, time and resources, and in the end, turning them over to a Kenyan court is no deterrence at all.  Somalian pirates don’t fear the Kenyans, and as proven today, they don’t fear Americans either.  The missing piece is what we do with pirates, and Galrahn mentions that “The current policy driving strategy, specifically the policy driving RoE, is clearly inadequate to solving the piracy problem off Somalia.”

And thus has he finally driven to the root of the problem.  As we have discussed before, three analysts – including The Captain’s Journal – have given us the solution.

The Captain’s Journal has weighed in saying:

This is easy. We tell the LOAC and ROE lawyers that they’re special and that they should go to their rooms and write high-sounding platitudes about compassion in war so that they’re out of the way, we land the Marines on the ship, and we kill every last pirate. Then we hunt down his domiciles in Somali and destroy them, and then we find his financiers and buyers and kill them. Regardless of the unfortunate potential loss of Ukrainian or Russian civilian life upon assaulting the ship, this weaponry and ordnance should never have been shipped in this part of the world without escort (and perhaps it shouldn’t have been shipped even with escort).  Negotiations will only serve to confirm the pirates in their methods. It’s killing time. It’s time to turn the United States Marines loose.

Ralph Peters has weighed in saying:

Piracy must be exterminated. Pirates aren’t folk heroes or champions of the oppressed. They’re terrorists and violent criminals whose ransom demands start at a million bucks. And they’re not impressed by the prospect of trials in a velvet-gloved Western court.  The response to piracy must be the same as it was when the British brought an end to the profession’s “golden age:” Sink them or board them, kill them or hang them.

Lt. Col. P at OpFor has weighed in saying:

Kill all of the pirates.

Seriously. Why do we allow a handful of khat-addled assholes to dominate one of the world’s most important sea lanes? We, the western powers, have sufficient naval units in the area to take care of the problem in very quick order. What we lack is the will. We apply an idiotically high standard of judicial due process to a situation that doesn’t lend itself well to a judicial solution. Anyone who has dealt with Somalis can tell you that they laugh at western legalisms, and what they perceive as western weaknesses. And then they redouble their violent efforts to take what they want from you. They do react very well to a boot on their necks, and a gun to their heads. Then they tend to wise up quickly.

Here’s how it needs to be done. Oil tanker sends distress call, takes evasive actions insofar as it is capable. (Or better yet, armed men aboard oil tanker defend by fire.) Coalition forces despatch (sic) vessels and boarding parties. Pirates who survive ensuing gun battle are lined up by the rail and shot in the head, then dumped overboard. Pirate boats are burned. If their bases or villages on the coast can be identified, said bases are raided and destroyed. No fuss no muss, no ransom, no hostages, no skyrocketing costs.

Contra Exum, cloak and dagger raids with concealed results aren’t the order of the day.  This all needs to be very open and public, with video of our actions.  Sure, if we line up surviving pirates at the rail, shoot them in the head and dump the bodies overboard, the world will go into a fit, the lawyers would scream … and the piracy would end.

So we must consider which is the more humane and civilized way to deal with piracy: continuing to allow them free reign over the Gulf of Aden, or ending the problem quickly with hard actions.  In the end, this isn’t for purposes of shock and the counsel given above is serious.  We must decide, for there isn’t an easy alternative within the existing RoE to deal with piracy.

We may not want to deal with piracy this way, but this only shows that we want piracy more than we want the solution.  Piracy exists because we want it to.

Piracy Poll

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 10 months ago

In addition to being a scourge on intercontinental commerce and transit, piracy on the Somalian coast has now take the next step.  A passenger liner – note, cruise ship – was recently the target of pirates.

An example of legal hand-wringing over law of the sea issues, rules of engagement and general reluctance of address the issue can be found at Opinio Juris.  Mr. Anderson at one point states that “No use of force question is ever truly easy.”  Of course, this is wrong, and the question is very easy to answer.  The Captain’s Journal has already done so (while also noting concurring opinions).

The Captain’s Journal has weighed in saying:

This is easy. We tell the LOAC and ROE lawyers that they’re special and that they should go to their rooms and write high-sounding platitudes about compassion in war so that they’re out of the way, we land the Marines on the ship, and we kill every last pirate. Then we hunt down his domiciles in Somali and destroy them, and then we find his financiers and buyers and kill them. Regardless of the unfortunate potential loss of Ukrainian or Russian civilian life upon assaulting the ship, this weaponry and ordnance should never have been shipped in this part of the world without escort (and perhaps it shouldn’t have been shipped even with escort). Negotiations will only serve to confirm the pirates in their methods. It’s killing time. It’s time to turn the United States Marines loose.

Ralph Peters has weighed in saying:

Piracy must be exterminated. Pirates aren’t folk heroes or champions of the oppressed. They’re terrorists and violent criminals whose ransom demands start at a million bucks. And they’re not impressed by the prospect of trials in a velvet-gloved Western court. The response to piracy must be the same as it was when the British brought an end to the profession’s “golden age:” Sink them or board them, kill them or hang them.

Lt. Col. P at OpFor has weighed in saying:

Kill all of the pirates.

Seriously. Why do we allow a handful of khat-addled assholes to dominate one of the world’s most important sea lanes? We, the western powers, have sufficient naval units in the area to take care of the problem in very quick order. What we lack is the will. We apply an idiotically high standard of judicial due process to a situation that doesn’t lend itself well to a judicial solution. Anyone who has dealt with Somalis can tell you that they laugh at western legalisms, and what they perceive as western weaknesses. And then they redouble their violent efforts to take what they want from you. They do react very well to a boot on their necks, and a gun to their heads. Then they tend to wise up quickly.

Here’s how it needs to be done. Oil tanker sends distress call, takes evasive actions insofar as it is capable. (Or better yet, armed men aboard oil tanker defend by fire.) Coalition forces despatch (sic) vessels and boarding parties. Pirates who survive ensuing gun battle are lined up by the rail and shot in the head, then dumped overboard. Pirate boats are burned. If their bases or villages on the coast can be identified, said bases are raided and destroyed. No fuss no muss, no ransom, no hostages, no skyrocketing costs.

The inability to deal with pirates properly is a 21st century phenomenon, entirely a function of legal problems, rules of engagement, rules for the use of force, and the impossible desire to be infallible and utterly perfect and pristine in the application of force.

At any rate, this is what we have previously stated to be the manifest solution to the problem.  But now, readers get a chance to weigh in by answering the easy poll below.  Remember – your heart may be telling you to vote the last bullet, while your head is telling you to vote something else.  But we expect the proper donation and we’ll know if you haven’t dropped coins into the coffers.

What should be done about the Somali Pirates?
Tell the lawyers to go home and then kill all of the pirates!
Turn the lawyers loose! They’re righteous and will show us the way.
What pirates? Where’s Johnny Depp?
The author of this poll is an ass. He can go kill them himself. Here’s $100 for travel expenses.
  
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Pirates in the Gulf of Aden

BY Herschel Smith
6 years ago

Somali pirates in small boats can be seen alongside the hijacked MV Faina. The captain of the hijacked ship off the coast of Somalia said one crew member had died (U.S. Navy/AP Photo).

The U.S. Navy and Marines have surrounded some very important cargo in the Gulf of Aden near the Somalian coast.

U.S. warships have surrounded the MV Faina, a Belize-registered ship that was hijacked by pirates off the lawless coast of Somalia last week.

While there’s no gold or precious jewels onboard, this buccaneer’s booty has the international community racing to intercept the boat before its cargo can be offloaded.

The Ukrainian-owned ship is carrying 33 Russian-made T-72 tanks, anti-aircraft guns, multiple-launch rocket systems and thousands of rounds of tank ammunition. Initial reports indicated the Ukrainian arms were destined for Kenya. But U.S. officials now say it appears they were to be shipped to Sudan, although it is unclear if they are headed to the central government in Khartoum or the government of Southern Sudan, which has purchased such tanks in the past.

The U.S. Navy has dispatched several destroyers and cruisers, as well as an amphibious ship with a complement of helicopters and Marines aboard, to ensure the hijacked arms don’t fall into the hands of terrorists in the power vacuum of the Horn of Africa region, particularly in Somalia, where al Qaeda-linked groups operate.

“We are not going to allow the offload of the ship’s cargo,” warned Lt. Nathan Christensen, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which has sent ships to the scene.

The U.S. ships are stationed in a 10-mile radius around the hijacked vessel to prevent it from escaping.

“We are deeply concerned about the safety of the crew as well as the cargo onboard MV Faina,” Christensen said, adding that the U.S. presence “represents the U.S. resolve to ensure safety and security in the region. Piracy is a problem that starts ashore and requires an international solution to this international problem.”

A senior U.S. defense official says the American ships’ main mission is to prevent the pirates aboard the freighter from being resupplied from shore. The MV Faina is anchored off the Somali port of Hoybyo, along with two other freighters that had been hijacked by pirates previously.

Also of immediate concern is the well-being of the ship’s crew of Ukrainians, Latvians and Russians, totaling 21. A Russian crewman is reported to have died from hypertension. A Russian naval ship is also on its way to the scene from the Baltic and is estimated to arrive off Somalia in a week, at the earliest.

The U.S. Navy says it has had no coordination with the Russians on the matter.

“The Russians, I believe, are trying to lend their support,” State Department deputy spokesman Robert Wood told reporters today, declining to comment further.

The modern-day swashbucklers were armed with automatic weapons when they boarded the ship Thursday. They are demanding a $20 million ransom for return of the cargo, down from an initial demand of $35 million.

The region off the coast of Somalia is well-known for pirate activity where cargo ships are regularly hijacked for ransom. Indeed, the number of vessels hijacked this year, and the ransoms demanded for their safe return, have risen dramatically.

Robert Kaplan gives us a little more on the pirates and their methods.

I spoke recently with several U.S. Navy officers who had been involved in anti-piracy operations off Somalia, and who had interviewed captured pirates. The officers told me that Somali pirate confederations consist of cells of ten men, with each cell distributed among three skiffs. The skiffs are usually old, ratty, and roach-infested, and made of unpainted, decaying wood or fiberglass. A typical pirate cell goes into the open ocean for three weeks at a time, navigating by the stars. The pirates come equipped with drinking water, gasoline for their single-engine outboards, grappling hooks, short ladders, knives, AK-47 assault rifles, and rocket-propelled grenades. They bring millet and qat (the local narcotic of choice), and they use lines and nets to catch fish, which they eat raw. One captured pirate skiff held a hunk of shark meat so tough it had teeth marks all over it. With no shade and only a limited amount of water, their existence on the high seas is painfully rugged.

The classic tactic of Somali pirates is to take over a slightly larger dhow, often a fishing boat manned by Indians, Taiwanese, or South Koreans, and then live on it, with the skiff attached. Once in possession of a dhow, they can seize an even bigger ship. As they leapfrog to yet bigger ships, they let the smaller ships go free. Because the sea is vast, only when a large ship issues a distress call do foreign navies even know where to look for pirates. If Somali pirates hunted only small boats, no warship in the international coalition would know about the piracy.

Off-hand cruelty is the pirates’ signature behavior. In one instance, they had beaten, bullied, and semi-starved an Indian merchant crew for a week, and thrown overboard a live monkey that the crew was transporting to Dubai. “Forget the Johnny Depp charm,” one Navy officer told me. “Theirs is a savage brutality not born of malice or evil, like a lion killing an antelope. There is almost a natural innocence about what they do.”

The Captain’s Journal has no idea what this Navy officer is talking about. He needs to go back and re-evaluate his own morality and ethics, if he has any. Piracy, theft and cruelty are most certainly born out of evil, and the pirates themselves are reprehensible along with their actions. Right and wrong, good and bad, righteousness and evil, are not merely conventions.  They are universal and invariant.  There is nothing romantic about this.

This isn’t about learning a language to communicate with a population, or identifying an indigenous insurgency, or befriending a tribal sheikh, or employing gated communities, or any of the complicated counterinsurgency tactics we’ve had to employ in Iraq or Afghanistan.

This is easy. We tell the LOAC and ROE lawyers that they’re special and that they should go to their rooms and write high-sounding platitudes about compassion in war so that they’re out of the way, we land the Marines on the ship, and we kill every last pirate. Then we hunt down his domiciles in Somali and destroy them, and then we find his financiers and buyers and kill them. Regardless of the unfortunate potential loss of Ukrainian or Russian civilian life upon assaulting the ship, this weaponry and ordnance should never have been shipped in this part of the world without escort (and perhaps it shouldn’t have been shipped even with escort).

Negotiations will only serve to confirm the pirates in their methods. It’s killing time. It’s time to turn the United States Marines loose.

AC-130 Gunship Targets al Qaeda in Somalia

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 9 months ago

Just reported from Fox News:

The United States launched a strike Monday against suspected Al Qaeda members in Somalia, a senior U.S. official informed FOX News.

The attack by the Air Force AC-130 gunship, capable of firing thousands of rounds per second, left casualties on the ground, but it is not clear if any of the dead were targeted terrorists, the official said.

The U.S. could have been targeting two terrorists — Fazul Abdullah Mohammed and Saleh Nabhan — who are connected to the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa that left more than 200 dead. Officials have long suspected those involved in the bombings have taken refuge in Somalia.

There may have been a scent of terrorist movement when Al Qaeda operatives taking cover in the Somalian capital of Mogadishu were likely chased out of their hideouts as Ethiopian forces cleared out Islamists who had taken power there.

The move marks the first time the U.S. has mounted a mission in Somalia since forces pulled out in 1994, two years after entering on a mission to feed starving people there. However, due to the bombings, the U.S. has shared intelligence with allies such as Kenya and Ethiopia and this fresh attack could be part of an ongoing anti-terror operation.

It is about time. More on the AC-130 can be found here.


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