February 19, 2009

HARRISONBURG—Today in his weekly “Strategic Interests” column for the World Defense Review, Dr. J. Peter Pham, Director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University, provides an updated analysis of the piracy phenomenon off the coast of Somalia and international responses to it, warning that the challenge “is not just ongoing, but incidents of attempted hijackings may actually increase” despite the efforts to counter them.

After reviewing the unprecedented level of international political and security cooperation—including United Nations resolutions and other efforts, multilateral and bilateral agreements, the stand-up United States-led Combined Task Force 151, the extension of the U.S. Naval Forces Europe/U.S. Naval Forces Africa “Africa Partnership Station” to Africa’s eastern littoral, and the deployment of other naval forces to the region—the article turns its attention to the “less promising indicators” among the Somali, including the internal contradictions within the ineffectual “Transitional Federal Government” (TFG) of Somalia, the rise of nefarious influence of piracy in the institutions of the semi-autonomous Puntland region, the continuing resurgence of the Islamist extremism spearheaded by al-Shabaab, and the pressure that Somaliland is increasingly under. Dr. Pham concludes:

No doubt considerable progress has been made in recent months in the international community’s appreciation of the challenge represented by the Somali pirates. However, much more remains to be done before the threat can be diminished. Ultimately…the problem of Somali lawlessness at sea will only be definitively resolved when the international community summons up the political will to adequately address the underlying pathology of Somali statelessness onshore. Absent a minimal framework of legitimate and effective governance in what was formerly the territory of the unitary Somali state—and I would include as an essential attribute of such governance some sort of coast guard capability, probably externally supported, perhaps with its resources divided between Somaliland (assuming the upcoming elections are held, their conduct legitimate, and the aftermath stable) and Somalia proper (under United Nations, African Union, or subregional tutelage until the TFG or whatever alternative interim arrangement might emerge in its stead proves itself effective and capable of handling such responsibilities)—the specter of piracy will always be looming just over the horizon.

To read the full text of the article, “Despite Progress, Somali Piracy Threat Persists—and May Grow Larger,” click here.