Somalia: What Are All The Commandoes For?

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November 22, 2009: Al Shabaab continues to impose Sharia (Islamic law ) in those parts of the south it controls. Al Shabaab has formed a lifestyle police, which uses volunteers to go about punishing people on the spot for minor infractions (not praying, wearing the wrong clothes, listening to music or watching videos), and seizing others for more serious ones (fornication, adultery, theft, murder). Recently an unmarried woman was stoned to death for having sex with a married man (who received a hundred lashes).

While al Shabaab is considered the major power in the south, they have lots of rivals. Al Shabaab "control" of southern Somalia is actually an ever changing patchwork. For example, a former ally, the smaller Hizbul Islam, is now openly at war with al Shabaab. And Hizbul Islam has allies, including Somali rebels across the border in the Ethiopian Ogaden province. There are also several powerful warlords, and religious groups (especially the Sufi militias) that are at war with al Shabaab. The smaller rebel groups seem to resent and resist al Shabaab trying to establish itself as the supreme leader of a religious dictatorship in Somalia. There is also disagreement over the hard line al Shabaab has taken on foreign aid groups. Al Shabaab has been expelling foreign aid groups it believes are "un Islamic" (and uses a flexible definition that can basically fits anyone that al Shabaab doesn't like). As a result, less aid is getting to people who need it most. Al Shabaab doesn't care, other Islamic radical groups care a little more. All this, of course, is the core problem in Somalia; there is very little enthusiasm for compromise and cooperation. The result is constant chaos.

The latest international corruption survey determined that Somalia was the most corrupt nation in Africa, and one of the most corrupt on the planet. It wasn't much better even when Somalia had a government.  

A growing number of UN members, and officials, are calling for an invasion of Somalia, as the only way to deal with piracy off the coast, and anarchy and violence ashore. The warlords, especially the Islamic radical ones, are making it more and more difficult to serve the growing number of sick and starving Somalis. The warlords consider the foreign aid something they can "tax" as much as they can get away with. This makes it much more expensive to feed the starving Somalis (both victims of a long running drought, and refugees from the fighting). As a result of all the losses to the warlords, many nations now refuse to contribute to the Somali aid effort (since so much of it just gets taken). The U.S. is now the major contributor of aid. Despite all these problems, none of the nations with armed forces capable of going ashore and pacifying Somalia (mostly Western ones), are not volunteering for the job.

Ukraine announced that it was sending 30 of its commando troops to join an EU (European Union) special operations force based in Djibouti. Most nations sending their elite troops to join this force, try and keep news of it out of the media. But in Ukraine, the media picked up on this, and made a big deal out of it.

The Somali pirates are now holding a dozen ships and 250 crew.

November 19, 2009: Pirates seized an Arab owned cargo ship off the southeast Yemeni coast, 65 kilometers from the Yemeni port of Balhaf. These may have been Yemeni pirates, who are using a Somali coastal village (and the protection of a Somali warlord) to safeguard the ship while the ransom is negotiated. Many of the "Somali" pirates are actually Yemenis, and many of the "Somali" pirates now operating off the Yemeni coast have mixed Somali/Yemeni crews.

November 18, 2009: For the second time in a year, the U.S. cargo ship, Maersk Alabama, was attacked by Somali pirates. This time, the pirates did not get aboard, mainly because many U.S. cargo ships off east Africa now carry armed guards. By U.S. law, American foreign aid must be carried by U.S. cargo ships. Thus there are a lot of American merchant ships coming into Mombassa, Kenya, to deliver aid for Somalis. The pirates have been attacking foreign aid ships for years, and even ships working for warlords (this usually results in the pirates backing off).

November 17, 2009: Pirates released a Spanish fishing ship, in return for the payment of over $3 million ransom and the release (soon) of two pirates captured and taken to Spain.

November 16, 2009: Spain has succumbed to pressure from Somali pirates, and agreed to release the two Somali pirates it had earlier captured after the two had participated in the capture of a large Spanish fishing ship. The two captive pirates will undergo a quick trial, be convicted, but sentenced to a short enough term in prison to allow them, according to Spanish law,  to be immediately "expelled" back to Somalia. Meanwhile, off the Somali coast, pirates captured a North Korean chemical tanker. The crew fought back, and the tanker captain was wounded and later died. Elsewhere along the coast, pirates attacked a Ukrainian cargo ship, and the crew successfully fought back, wounding two of the pirates.

November 14, 2009: China reported that, in the last eleven months, its warships (usually two) stationed off the Somali coast had escorted 1,100 ships through pirate infested waters, and , twelve times, chased away pirates who were attacking a merchant ship. During that time, Chinese naval commanders were allowed to work more closely with the commanders of warships from other nations, and are now participating in planning with the informal command group that coordinates the international anti-piracy operations off the coast. The main function of this effort is to guard two shipping channels (one east bound, one west bound) through the Gulf of Aden. There are smaller operations off the east coast and out to the Seychelles islands (which are 1,500 kilometers east of Somalia).

 

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