[dehai-news] VOA: Admiral Skeptical as US Seeks to Pursue Pirates onto Land


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From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Sun Dec 14 2008 - 14:03:44 EST


Admiral Skeptical as US Seeks to Pursue Pirates onto Land

By Al Pessin
Washington
14 December 2008

        

 

Pirates leave the Ukrainian merchant vessel MV Faina for Somalia's shore
under observation by a US Navy ship, 08 Oct 2008

Pirates leave the Ukrainian merchant vessel MV Faina for Somalia's shore
under observation by a US Navy ship, 08 Oct 2008

The Pentagon says it is looking into how it might act on a draft U.N.
Security Council resolution, being circulated by the United States, that
would, for the first time, authorize military action against pirate bases
inside Somalia. But a senior American admiral is expressing skepticism about
the plan.

The draft resolution calls on all countries to actively fight piracy off the
Somali coast, as many countries including the United States have been doing.
The U.S. draft also adds a 12-month authorization for foreign forces to
enter Somali territory and airspace to "take all necessary measures" to find
and stop pirates, if the transitional Somali government agrees.

But in Bahrain on Friday, Vice Admiral Bill Gortney, the commander of U.S.
naval forces in the Middle East, said he does not need any more authority to
fight pirates. He told reporters it would be difficult to identify pirate
bases in Somalia because they blend in with the local population, and he
said any attacks would likely result in civilian casualties.

Admiral Gortney said piracy can not be ended through U.S. military action
alone. He said to do more on piracy he needs better cooperation among all
the world's navies, but also a bigger security effort by the shipping
industry and improved stability, economic development and rule of law in
Somalia in order to reduce the number of men who turn to a life of crime on
the high seas. And the admiral says he needs one more thing.

"We need the international community to provide us a mechanism that when we
capture pirates we have a process to hold them and then take them to a court
of law and hold them accountable for their actions if they're found guilty,"
he said.

Admiral Gortney says his forces rescued some men on a small boat this week
whose engine had gone out and who had no food or water left. The sailors
found rifles and grenades in the boat and concluded the men were pirates,
but because they had not been observed doing anything wrong the troops had
to treat them as "mariners in distress." So they were rescued then set free
in Yemen.

In recent months, U.S. military and civilian officials have cited many
difficulties in trying to deal with piracy in the region, including the ones
mentioned by Admiral Gortney, as well as the logistical difficulty of trying
to police a body of water as large as the Gulf of Aden and dangers any
military action would pose to hostages held on pirated ships. Pirates
currently hold about 300 hostages on 17 ships off the Horn of Africa.

On Friday, Pentagon Spokesman Bryan Whitman said there are still a lot of
details to work out before the U.S. military would be ready to more
aggressive in dealing with pirates, or to take the fight onto land.

"I would tell you that there are many issues associated with this, and
you've hit upon a lot of them. There are many challenges to this. There are
legal issues out there. There are practical issues with respect to how you
would go about doing this. And the United States government is trying to
take a look at this in a broad way. And we, as part of that, are certainly
going to look at what some of the military aspects would be. We are in the
process of that. It's ongoing," he said.

Whitman says military action alone can not solve the piracy problems. "I
think there are many that are seeking a simple military solution, or solely
a military solution, to address the piracy issue. And I think we need to
take a more comprehensive look at this. And while there may be a military
component, this is an issue that has to be addressed more broadly," he said.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will be at the United Nations next
week to talk about the piracy resolution with representatives of other
Security Council member nations. Earlier this month, the council extended
its mandate for naval anti-piracy patrols, but it is not clear when the new
draft adding action on land and in Somali airspace might come to a vote.

 


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