Somalia/NATO

NATO Mar­itime Group to Com­bat Pirates off Soma­lia

By Jim Gara­mone
Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice

NATO will send its Stand­ing Naval Mar­itime Group to the waters off Soma­lia, a spokesman for the alliance said today.

James Appathu­rai told reporters at a news con­fer­ence that the deci­sion came out of the defense min­is­te­r­i­al con­fer­ence under way here. Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates is meet­ing with his NATO coun­ter­parts.

Pira­cy off Somalia’s coast has become an increas­ing con­cern, high­light­ed by the recent tak­ing of the Ukrain­ian car­go ves­sel Faina. The ship is car­ry­ing tanks and oth­er mil­i­tary sup­plies. The pirates, who oper­ate from small boats launched from the beach, also have endan­gered food ship­ments to the coun­try. Unit­ed Nations Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al Ban Ki-moon said 3 mil­lion Soma­lis are in dan­ger of not receiv­ing the sup­plies they need via the World Food Pro­gram.

“The Unit­ed Nations asked for NATO’s help to address this prob­lem,” Appathu­rai said. “Today, the min­is­ters agreed that NATO should play a role. NATO will have its Stand­ing Naval Mar­itime Group, which is com­posed of sev­en ships, in the region with­in two weeks.”

The NATO force will ensure World Food Pro­gram ships have the escort they need to deliv­er their essen­tial food sup­plies and patrol the waters around Soma­lia to help to stop acts of pira­cy.

Well in excess of 40 per­cent of Soma­lis are depen­dent on food aid deliv­ered by World Food Pro­gram ships, Appathu­rai said, and the increased dan­ger of pira­cy requires that the aid ships have escorts. A Cana­di­an war­ship is per­form­ing that mis­sion now.

The NATO ships will work with all allies who have ships in the area now, the NATO spokesman said. The U.S. Navy has ships in the region.

“There are still impor­tant details to work out, but the bot­tom line is there will soon be NATO mil­i­tary ves­sels off the coast of Soma­lia deter­ring pira­cy and escort­ing food ship­ments,” Appathu­rai said. “That is good news for the Soma­lis, and good news for inter­na­tion­al ship­ping.”

Source:
U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)