Gates Says Somalia Government Is Key to Problem.

Halkaan ka akhri

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Monday that despite the successful rescue of an American merchant captain Sunday, piracy off the coast of Somalia will flourish until a stable government is established in Mogadishu.

Mr. Gates said poverty and rampant criminality in Somalia make piracy an attractive option for local youths, and problems there are “probably going to get worse.”

[Robert Gates] “There is no purely military solution to it,” Mr. Gates said in an address to the Marine Corps War College in Quantico, Va. “There’s really no way in my view to control it unless you get something on land that begins to change the equation for these kids.”

Mr. Gates’s statement reflects a widely held view within the Pentagon. One senior defense official said the large number of commercial ships in the region and the growing number of criminal gangs in Somalia have made it almost impossible for the word’s navies to deal with the attacks on the open seas.

Among the advocates for more serious initiatives in Somalia has been Vice Adm. William E. Gortney, commander of U.S. naval forces in the Middle East, who on Sunday reiterated his ships could only do so much and “the ultimate solution for piracy is on land.”

[somalia]But American ground forces are already stretched thin by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, said another senior military official who is familiar with Pentagon planning for the region. The official added that U.S. intelligence on the pirate leadership is thin and it would be difficult to strike surgically at pirate camps that are intermingled with the general population.

“For us to do that would require a huge amount of resources and that’s not something we have the energy or resources to get into right now,” the official said.

Peter Chalk, an expert on Somali piracy at the Rand Corp. said relying on navies to deal with piracy is politically expedient but likely to be ineffective. “The problem of Somalia is too great, so we don’t deal with it and instead we have a naval task force off the coast,” he said. “What we need to do is provide stability in Somalia, but no one wants to do that because it’s too difficult.”

On Monday, mortars were fired at the small airport in Mogadishu while U.S. Rep. Donald Payne, chairman of the Africa subcommittee on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was there on a rare visit to discuss piracy with the country’s leadership.

—Siobhan Gorman contributed to this article.

Sourse The Wall Street Journal

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