Monday, January 2, 2012

The EU May Expand Military Operations in the Horn of Africa

Just yesterday I had noted that the U.S. is increasing its military involvement on the Horn, and now I have come across this article from Spiegel Online that states:
The EU is apparently considering ramping up the operation to target the pirates' weapons arsenals, speedboats and fuel depots on the beach. The plan foresees helicopters targeting the infrastructure from the sea. The aircraft would not, however, fire on people. The German Foreign Ministry stressed that the expanded mission would only involve destroying the onshore infrastructure and would not be "an operation on land." 
As we saw with Libya, Germany is good at getting other people to foot its military bill, without dirtying its hands. (Ironic, considering Germany's ties to various rogue regimes. Apparently dirty money is okay).

Anyway, the article provides some background on the situation:
With Somalia still without a functioning government, scores of young men continue to set out to sea to hijack ships passing along the vital trade route. The vessels and their crews are then held hostage for ransom, a lucrative activity.

The EU launched Operation Atalanta in December 2008 in a bid to tackle the problem. As well as EU member states, non-EU countries such as Norway, Croatia and Ukraine have also contributed to the operation. The force has around 1,500 military personnel at its disposal, including around 550 soldiers. Depending on the time of year, it typically has between five and 10 surface vessels on deployment off the coast of Somalia and in the Indian Ocean, as well as auxiliary ships and patrol and reconnaissance aircraft. Military units are currently drawn from a core group of 13 contributing countries, including France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom among others. Germany is currently contributing one frigate to the operation.

In addition to Atalanta, there is a substantial international force in the area, including the US-led, multinational group called the Combined Maritime Forces. NATO is also present and ships from China, India, Japan, Russia and other countries also patrol the waters.

The latest figures from the European Union Naval Force suggest that efforts to fight piracy may finally be starting to bear fruit. There were just 12 attempted pirate attacks in November 2011, down from 35 in the same period last year. Observers believe the decline is at least partially due to the increasing number of armed guards on ships.
(Emphasis added). I would bet that is the primary reason. Criminals prefer soft targets.

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