Special Operations: Germans Practice Risk Management

May 10, 2009: Last April 5th, Somali pirates captured the German cargo ship, the Hansa Stavanger, off the Somali coast. This triggered an unexpected reaction in Germany, and a government decision to send 200 GSG-9 police commandos and support personnel to rescue the ship and its crew (which included five Germans). GSG-9 received U.S. permission to stage their operation from the American amphibious ship USS Boxer. It took several weeks to get everything in position. But then some German and American officials (political, not military), got cold feet and called it all off.

What got the mission going in the first place was the growing German public unhappiness about paying large ransoms. Not just ships captured by Somali pirates, but also in some high profile kidnappings in Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan over the last few years. Noting the American and French use of commandos to deal with the Somali pirates, many German political leaders believed that having the GSG-9 hostage rescue unit do their thing would be a good move. But when U.S. presidential advisors had misgivings, the Germans backed off. Both American and German critics pointed out that the hostages appeared well defended, and that a rescue attempt might lead to high casualties. This was considered more of a problem than paying ransom to pirates.

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