November 13, 2007

HARRISONBURG—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, examines piracy and other security challenges in the waters off Africa as evidenced by the recent spate of attacks on merchant shipping and fishing vessels near Somalia.

The column also notes the recent progress made to increasing security in African waters, including the publication last month of the first ever unified maritime strategy jointly by the United States Navy, the Marine Corps, and the Coast Guard, as well as the deployment of the African Partnership Station to the Gulf of Guinea.

Dr. Pham concludes:

While the most recent attacks from the Somali coast were repulsed through the fortuitous presence of no less than three U.S. Navy destroyers, neither such a robust presence on station nor the relatively less worrisome criminal motivations of the “pirates” will always be the case. The attackers, after all, could have been some of Somalia’s al-Qaeda-linked radical Islamists or the naval elements might well have been deployed elsewhere. Thus the incidents should be taken as a salutary reminder of the need to cultivate the capabilities of and relationships with both enduring and new partner states in the geopolitically critical waters off Africa as well as redoubling our own vigilance against the threat of lawlessness on the waters, both deep and shallow.

To read the full text of Dr. Pham’s article, “Responding to Piracy and Other African Maritime Security Challenges,” click here.