SGT Figueras, Diego
Piracy has steadily been on the rise along the Horn of Africa primarily along the coast of Somalia. In recent years, piracy has gained the attention from the United States (U.S.) and the international community about its consistent and ever increasing threat. A well-known example of Somalia’s rampant piracy threat occur in April of 2009, when Somalian pirates forcibly captured the shipping vessel Maersk Alabama’s skipper, Richard Phillips, as a hostage (Boot, 2009). The situation ended when U.S. Navy Seals, conducted a rescue operation that freed Captain Phillips. The media coverage that followed revealed to the U.S. that piracy is and will be continue to be a source of conflict without U.S. assistance and East African Naval cooperation.
Second order of effects
The Captain Phillips rescue led to the U.S. and East African nations (EAN) developing anti-piracy procedures. However, even with the new procedures the U.S. and EAN still failed to recognize piracy as a legitimate concern in the region. The lack of action from the U.S. and EAN allowed piracy to flourish. From 2009 through 2011, there was an estimated 850 attacks on military and commercial vessels costing $6.6 -$6.9 billion dollars in damage and ransoms. The Somali piracy threat reached its climax in 2011, where Somali pirates began affecting shipping lanes, causing the cost of goods, such as, (oil, food, technology) to rise worldwide (Mueller, 2013). At the end of 2011, the U.S. and EAN finally recognized the severity of the Somali piracy threat.
Third order of effects
In 2012, the U.S. Navy began being more active against the threat posed by Somali pirates. The U.S. sent naval ships such as, destroyers and cruises to begin patrolling and responding to ships under duress from Somali pirates. The increased presence and timely reaction by the U.S. Navy, has caused a significant decrease in piracy activity in the region. From 2012 through 2015, there were only estimated 264 attacks from Somali pirates (Fiorelli, 2014). That is a 68% decrease of pirate attacks since the height of Somali piracy from 2009 through 2011. The threat posed by the U.S. Navy to the Somali pirates has been a significant detergent against piracy.
The threat posed from Somali pirates is steadily decreasing each passing year. In order to eliminate the threat posed by Somali pirates, the U.S. Navy will require more assistance and cooperation from EAN. The U.S. Navy will not always be able to defend the international shipping lanes from Somali pirate attacks. In addition, because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. populace will not be supportive to another long-term U.S. military commitment. EAN and their naval forces must began taking a more active role and eventually spearhead the anti-piracy effort to effectively eliminate piracy. However, I assess that EAN will not be able to meet the demands require to effectively counter piracy along the Horn of Africa. Because, EAN does not have financial means, logistical support, equipment require nor the trained personnel to effectively sustain long-term anti-piracy operations unlike the U.S. If the U.S. Navy were to cease anti-piracy operations, piracy would reappear, potentially return to its climax seen in 2011 and once again cause havoc in the international shipping lanes.
The Al Shabaab threat to Somalia
Al Shabaab is currently East Africa’s largest and most active terrorist organization. In the past decade, Al Shabaab has successfully gained an area of operations that covers the entire Horn of Africa. In 2014, Somali security forces and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) began conducting counter insurgency operations against Al Shabaab. However, three years of counterterrorism operations has yielded little results in disrupting Al Shabaab operations. Al Shabaab still controls a vast majority of southern and central Somalia and within the past year, has been becoming more active in Somalia. In January 2016, Al Shabaab conducted a complex attack that resulted in overrunning an AMISOM base near the Kenya-Somalia border. Al Shabaab claims to have killed more than 100 AMISOM Soldiers; however, that number has yet to be confirm even a one year later. In addition, in the past seven months, Al-Shabaab has successfully overran two additional AMISOM bases and plundered equipment, vehicles and weaponry. The equipment and resources retrieved from AMISOM bases have not only strengthen Al Shabaab military capabilities, but also asserted themselves as a legitimate threat to Somalia’s sovereignty.
Second order of effects
Al Shabaab’s recent success has increased their confidence to operate openly as a legitimate form of government in southern and central Somalia. However, their inability to act as a legitimate government has significant consequences to the Somali citizens within its territory. Southern and central Somalia suffer from extreme drought, which has cause a famine in the region. International surveys suggest that roughly, 3.6 million Somali citizens suffer from starvation and many more suffer from life threatening medical issues as a result. Al Shabaab government and leadership is not prepared to handle this current crisis let alone provide for the citizens basic needs. To make matters worse, the Al Shabaab government has banned all Western and United Nations humanitarian aid organizations access to its territory. Their Islamic counterparts, the Islamic Relief, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent are all limited in their capabilities to combat the spread of famine. In addition, are not able to provide the medical relief and food aid desperately required by the Somali citizens.
Boot, M., 2009. Pirates, Then and Now: How Piracy Was Defeated in the Past and Can Be Again. Foreign Affairs Journal. 88. no. 4: 94-107.
Besley, T., Fetzer, T. and Mueller, H. 2013. The welfare cost of lawlessness: Evidence from Somali piracy. VOX: Research-based policy analysis and commentary from leading economists. Retrieved 04 February 2017 (http://www.voxeu.org/article/welfare-cost-lawlessness-evidence-somali-piracy).
Fiorelli, M., 2014. Piracy in Africa: The case of the Gulf of Guinea. Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Center. No. 37: 1-16.