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Somali piracy fades under US-led campaign

Somali piracy fades under US-led campaign ( An international campaign led by the United States is having a huge impact on reducing Somali piracy.

WASHINGTON DC - An international campaign led by the United States has brought about a precipitous drop in Somali pirate attacks.

Assistant Secretary of State for Political and Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro said that in January 2011, Somali pirates held 31 ships and 710 hostages and today they hold 5 ships and 143 hostages. “That is roughly an 80 percent reduction in ships and hostages held by pirates since January 2011. While this is still unacceptably high, the trend is clear. We are making tremendous progress," he said in Washington on October 26.

Shapiro attributes the success to US “smart power" involving the use of multiple tools - diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal, and cultural.

The tools brought to bear against the pirates are 1) military power, 2) collaboration with the private sector, 3) legal enforcement, 4) targeting networks, and 5) development and governance, according to Shapiro. He said US diplomatic engagement has been the force to coalesce and guide the campaign.

“Solving foreign policy problems requires us to bring countries and peoples together as only America can," Shapiro said, quoting from the State Department's Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, “Our response to piracy is an example of how we are seeking to lead in new ways, by reaching out to new actors and build new kinds of partnerships and coalition."

As Shapiro explained it, the United States helped establish the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia in January 2009. The group now has more than 70 nations as well as international and maritime industry organizations to oversee naval coordination at sea, judicial, and legal issues involving captured pirates and public diplomacy programs to discourage piracy.

While up to 30 naval vessels from as many as 22 countries patrolling the Gulf of Aden on any given day, shipping companies themselves are taking actions to thwart pirate attacks. Shapiro said the single most effective anti-piracy measure a commercial shipping company can take is to put a team of armed security guards aboard a ship.

“To date, not a single ship with armed security personnel aboard has been successfully pirated," Shapiro said. The United States is urging all countries threatened by Somali pirates to permit the use of armed personnel aboard ships, he said.

The Assistant Secretary said the United States is helping countries affected by pirates to catch, prosecute, and jail them.

“Kenya, Seychelles, and the Maldives have each accepted for prosecution dozens of pirates captured by naval forces patrolling off the Horn of Africa. They have also agreed to incarcerate convicted prisoners until more durable solutions are found. These countries deserve both commendation from the international community and support for their judicial systems," he said.

Shapiro said the anti-piracy contact group is using investigative and financial tracking capabilities, headquartered in the Seychelles, to identify the masterminds behind the pirates at sea. In August, a US federal court handed down 12 life sentences to pirate negotiator Mohammad Saaili Shibin for his role in two attacks that included the deaths of four Americans. Shapiro said this kind of action demonstrates that the land-based masterminds also will be apprehended and punished.

A durable end to Somali piracy requires the re-establishment of stability in a country that is beginning to recover from chaos, Shapiro said. In the immediate term, he said, US public diplomacy delivers messages that on one hand show how pirates violate traditional Somali values and society while on the other demonstrate the value of economic development efforts that the international community is carrying out.

Author: Phillip Kurata


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