Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Grow Some! Mr. President!

American Victims

Normally I would offer a few comments and out takes on a post that caught my eye. But in this post I am going to reproduce the entire post from Galhran of information dissemination in total, to pass along the full throated calling out of our President for his total failure in setting any objective in having a huge contingent of our Navy sailing around the Indian Ocean and not being able to stop piracy. I am being harsh, because stupidity aside to sail off as those four unfortunate souls did, if there was a policy and action taken years ago, Somalia piracy would be a distant memory and the sea lanes safe, as Alfred T Mahan divined, was the sign of a great power.

The Day After Reflections and Questions
CTF 151 operates in the Gulf of Aden and off the eastern coast of Somalia covering an area of approximately 1.1 million square miles.
CTF 151 is a multinational task force established in January 2009 to conduct counterpiracy operations under a mission-based mandate throughout the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) area of responsibility to actively deter, disrupt and suppress piracy in order to protect global maritime security and secure freedom of navigation for the benefit of all nations.
CTF 151 has previously been commanded by the U.S. Navy, the Korean Navy and the Turkish Navy. The command staff is comprised of personnel from a number of coalition countries, and it manages daily operations from onboard the TCG Gokceada.
Pakistan Navy Cdre. Abdul Aleem currently commands CTF 151.
The day after the tragic murder of four Americans by Somalia piracy there are still many questions to ask. Some questions will not have answers until the FBI and Navy investigation is completed, but other questions we can begin to think about today.
The quote that begins this article is from the 5th Fleet website here under the section for Task Force 151. I believe we can read that quote and get an understanding what the mission of Task Force 151 is, but what is not stated is what the objective of Task Force 151s mission is. General and Flag Officers talk about how the US is in an era of persistent conflict, but when our military forces lack objectives like they do for the Afghanistan campaign or Somalia piracy, wouldn't it be more accurate to describe ourselves stuck in an era of perpetual conflict - potentially perpetuated by us? The only objective a civilian leader will ever discuss for Afghanistan is a withdraw date, and there has never been an objective discussed by political leaders in regards to Somali piracy.
In many ways, I believe this is what Admiral Fox has been trying to say in his cryptic speeches lately. There is no objective in anti-piracy, because when we claim "to actively deter, disrupt and suppress piracy" is the objective, what we are really saying is that fighting piracy forever is the objective. If piracy operations were to cease, wouldn't that mean the US Navy failed the objective of their mission? It would if we read the Task Force 151 page incorrectly.
It isn't very often the US Navy has an aircraft carrier, a cruiser, and two of the largest destroyers on the planet and loses a battle, but that is what happened on Tuesday. Obviously there are reasons why it happened, but 4 Americans died - and that is the outcome. So lets start asking questions.
The Navy's official statement said the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65), the guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55), the guided-missile destroyers USS Sterett (DDG 104) and USS Bulkeley (DDG 84) were all involved. Could the 58 ft yacht see all four massive ships, or just the USS Sterett (DDG 104) 600 yards away? What is the message to pirates when 4 US Navy ships with a combined displacement over 130,000 tons is looming over a hijacked yacht with 21-23 people crammed together? I think I'd be nervous, and I do wonder if that made the pirates nervous enough to shoot the hostages.
How much Khat was seized? The Navy tracked the yacht for several days, meaning 17-19 pirates were living in close quarters on a little yacht likely strung out on Khat. Did they run out? We know that during the Maersk Alabama incident that when the pirates ran out of Khat the tension rose considerably, and that led to conditions that prompted the CO of Bainbridge to take action for the safety of Captain Phillips. How much Khat was seized, and if they ran out - was the Navy aware of any Khat shortage on the yacht? Drugs might explain the violence between pirates and pirates, and/or pirates and hostages. Does the widespread usage of Khat by Somali pirates make longer negotiations at sea more dangerous than quick resolutions to hostage standoffs? The FBI prefers to be patient in hostage negotiations, but does Khat change that calculation?
The US Navy has yet to conduct an armed hostage rescue against Somali pirates where violence wasn't required, and in both situations it was the threatening actions of the pirates that forced the Navy to act. One can legitimately say that armed negotiations at sea by the US Navy does not work, or one could say force is always required in hostage situations at sea. Both statements represent the pattern to date. Remember, the Magellan Star was not a hostage situation, the pirates never captured any members of the crew.
How many of the pirates had been caught and released for piracy before? As the naval forces approached 13 pirates seemed to know to drop weapons and surrender. I find that a bit odd, and it suggests that perhaps they had been part of the catch and release programs that have been ongoing for years off Somalia.
What was the name of the mothership, and what pirate town did the pirates who control the mothership come from? Is there a Xarardheere connection or an Al Shabaab link to why the Americans were killed? How long are we going to let pirates drive tankers around the Indian Ocean using them as motherships before someone decides that's a very bad idea?
Since the United States Navy cannot articulate an objective of their piracy mission, how do we measure whether or not the US Navy is helping, or hurting, the piracy situation off Somalia and in the Indian Ocean? This is the choice we must make. Either the United States Navy is incapable of dealing with pirates, or the political policy guiding the United States Navy dealing with piracy is a complete failure. Every statistic shows the number of piracy incidents is getting higher, and the number of hijackings is getting higher, and the area pirates operate is expanding, and the costs are going up, and the violence is getting worse. This is failure by every standard.
In my view, this is a complete, total, and absolute failure by the current Commander in Chief who appears to be incapable of setting objectives with Somali piracy, and anyone who lacks the gonads to say exactly that needs to have a damn good argument why the United States Navy is otherwise incapable of dealing with men carrying AK-47s and RPGs in little skiffs. The media and the think tank community is made up of chicken shit cowards who refuse to ask why the US Navy sails circles around the Gulf of Aden while piracy gets worse, and under no circumstances will anyone criticize the Obama administration for an aimless, endless perpetual violence policy in the Indian Ocean. What is the point of continuous military operations without objectives?
Can someone explain why the US Navy is sailing $2 billion destroyers around the Indian Ocean not fighting pirates while all the governments on the North African coast are imploding, and the US Navy can manage only a single destroyer in the entire Mediterranean Sea right now?
Col. David Coffman, about one year ago, sat in front of a huge audience in San Diego and discussed about 2 dozen options other than invading Somalia that the 13 MEU could do to dramatically decrease piracy events in the Indian Ocean. He and the 13 MEU deployed today to that region, why not allow Marines be Marines, and give some of those options a try?
The Obama administration's policies contribute towards the reason the United States is in an era of persistent conflict, and only his loyal but truly blind defenders can claim otherwise. The situation off Somalia is getting worse, not better, because of the actions of US Navy forces. US Navy military actions serve towards no articulated military objective while disrupting the only process that does work - the hostage for ransom exchange program that industry created when Navy's failed to take any meaningful action to curb the problem.
We talk about the merits of cooperation, but the details Admiral Fox gave today in his press conference suggests cooperation doesn't add significant value to actually dealing with issues, only responding to events after the fact.
We currently have 34 vessels, warships, that are patrolling in this area, under 15 different flags, as we speak. And that number will vary. There's an EU [European Union] counter piracy task force, there's a NATO counter piracy task force, and then I'm in command of a counter piracy task force. We each take -- we work well together and cooperate and share our resources and our information. But even with the vast distances that are involved here, you know, there's a lot -- there's a lot of places where we are not.
All this actually means anymore is that there are 15 different interpretations of international law that addresses piracy. Do you realize that the PLA Navy has more strategic clarity regarding Somali piracy than we do, because they can define mission (escort convoys) and objective (escort convoys without a hijacking) - and they have legitimate data by which to measure success or failure. The US, EU, and NATO cannot define the objective of their mission, nor do they have raw data that can be demonstrated towards mission objective success or failure.
There are many legitimate questions Congress should ask, because our nations ineffectiveness in curbing piracy is quite expensive.
If policy does not change, the only things we know will happen is the situation will continue to get worse - except maybe for the Somali pirates. It is a shame to say, but we are lucky it is only a yacht with four Americans, because we all know that with Somali piracy the world is sitting on a powder keg that could go off in any direction at any time.

Posted by Galrahn at 12:00 AM
Day After Reflections and Questions

It is time to act. If enough voices are raised maybe the President will act and the Navy will do what navies have done about pirates for the past 2500 years of seafaring history. Stop them at sea, follow them home and burn their nests. The message will be clear, better to scrap out a living honestly, than be fish bait.

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