Archive for the ‘5th Fleet’ Category

Pirates: U.S. Navy Commander Suggests Armed Security For Every Cargo Ship Near Somalia

December 18, 2008

Shipping firms should use armed security guards much more to protect their vessels against pirates off Somalia, the top U.S. Navy commander charged with tackling the problem said on Friday.

Vice Admiral Bill Gortney said more cooperation between navies, a legal basis for detaining and trying pirates and stabilizing Somalia would also help to crackdown on the piracy, which has surged in the region in recent months.

But Gortney expressed skepticism about going after pirates on land or targeting them with air strikes, even though a draft U.N. Security Council resolution drawn up by Washington seeks authority for such actions.


U.S. Vice Adm. William Gortney
U.S. Vice Adm. William Gortney commands the Navy’s 5th Fleet. AP Hasan Jamali

“I see people trying to look for an easy military solution to a problem that demands a non-kinetic solution,” Gortney told reporters traveling with visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates at his headquarters in Bahrain.

“If you’re going to do kinetic strikes into the pirate camps, the positive ID and the collateral damage concerns cannot be overestimated.

“They’re irregulars — they don’t wear uniforms,” said Gortney, who commands the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet and oversees a coalition of navies fighting piracy off Somalia.

Somali pirates stand in the dock inside a court of law in Kenya's ... 
Somali pirates stand in the dock inside a court of law in Kenya’s coastal town of Mombasa December 11, 2008. Somalia’s government has welcomed a call by the United States for countries to have U.N. authority to hunt down Somali pirates on land as well as pursue them off the coast of the Horn of Africa nation.(Joseph Okanga – KENYA/Reuters)

Gortney said the solution lay in bringing stability to the African state but that would not happen soon. Governments and shipping companies had to look for other answers.

“I’m a firm believer … (in) armed security guards, because that’s what we’d do ashore,” he said. “You’re working against criminal activity. That’s what I’m pushing.”

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Navy commander questions land attacks on pirates

December 13, 2008

Days before Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is to ask the United Nations to authorize “all necessary measures” against piracy from Somalia, a leader of the U.S. military, which would help carry out that policy, said in effect: Not so fast.

The commander of the U.S. Navy‘s 5th Fleet expressed doubt Friday about the wisdom of launching attacks against Somali pirates on land, as the draft U.N. resolution proposes. A Pentagon spokesman warned against the urge to grasp for a quick and easy military solution to a complex international problem.

U.S. Vice Adm. Bill Gortney told reporters that striking pirate camps in lawless Somalia could open a can of worms. It is difficult to identify pirates, and the potential for killing innocent civilians “cannot be overestimated,” Gortney said.

U.S. Vice Adm. William Gortney
U.S. Vice Adm. William Gortney commands the Navy’s 5th Fleet. AP Hasan Jamali

There is a huge risk to any U.S. forces involved, whether small commando units or larger operations. And U.S. commanders still have sour memories of the humiliating “Blackhawk Down” outcome of U.S. military intervention in Somalia more than a decade ago.

Concern about possible mistaken identity extends to operations at sea, too, since pirate ships are often indistinguishable from ragtag fishing vessels. The military is also worried about what would be done with captured pirates, who would try or imprison them.

“There are many that are seeking a simple military solution, or solely a military solution to address the piracy issue,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said. “I think that we need to take a more comprehensive look a this, and while there may be a military component, this is an issue that has to be addressed more broadly.”

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Indian warship INS Tabar escorts the MV Jag Arnav ship to safety after rescuing it from pirates.

Above: On an anti-piracy patrol, Indian Navy warship escorts a merchant ship.  Photo: Indian Navy