“We welcome the passing of the resolution,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said today. “We will continue to work with our allies and partners to address this troublesome problem.”
Whitman said the Defense Department is committed to safe and secure international waterways, adding that shipping companies should take practical and prudent measures to protect their vessel.
This emphasis on the need for commercial shippers to take more responsibility echoes comments Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates made last week in Manama, Bahrain. He suggested owners train boat captains on maneuvers for evading or defending against pirate attacks.
“We’ve seen news reports the other day of a cruise ship that actually — once it realized it was under attack — simply outran the pirates. The truth of the matter is most ships can do that,” he said. “But too many just stop.
“But at the end of the day, [piracy] has become a very good business,” he added. “The first thing we need is better intelligence on who’s behind it.”
Gates said some intelligence suggested that several Somali-based clans might be responsible for a substantial amount of piracy.
“If we can identify who those clans are, then we can potentially target them under the auspices of the U.N., and do so in a way that minimizes the collateral damage, that minimizes hurting innocent people in Somalia,” he said.
Gates said that given the current level of intelligence, the United States is not ready to carry out such land-based attacks on pirates who are mingling with civilian populations.
“But I think at some point, if we are able to develop adequate intelligence, then there is an opportunity to that,” he said.
“I think it’s actually a combination of the measures that are taken on the water, and then, under the auspices of the U.N., seeing if we can develop the kind of information that would make possible going after some of these groups in Somalia that would seem to be the source of most of these attacks,” the secretary continued.
Navy Vice Adm. William E. Gortney, commander of the U.S. 5th Fleet, expressed a similar concern about the risk of civilian casualties in pursuing pirates on land.
“If you are going to do kinetic strikes into the pirate camps, the positive ID and the collateral damage cannot be overestimated. It’s very difficult,” he told reporters in Manama last week. “They are irregulars; they don’t wear uniforms.”
Following the U.N. Security Council meeting in New York City yesterday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the talks included discussion of intelligence sharing, the need for commercial shipping to deter hostage situations and the importance of stabilizing Somalia.
She added that the United States is going to lead a Contact Group on Piracy on the Somali Coast.
“But ultimately, all members spoke to the need to deal with the root cause of the problem, which is the instability in Somalia,” she said. “There is great support, as the United States supports the Djibouti process and the hopes for peace as Somali factions begin to try and chart a course ahead.”