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Somali Pirates Remain A Challenge

Coordinated international action is contributing toward a declining overall success rate of pirate attacks off the Horn of Africa.

Piracy in the waters off the Horn of Africa remains a serious challenge to humanitarian aid and commerce in one of the world’s busiest shipping corridors. But coordinated international action is contributing toward a declining overall success rate of pirate attacks, realizing U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s vision of “a 21st Century Solution to [the] 17th Century crime” of piracy.

Following a meeting recently at the United Nations, more than 50 nations and international groups comprising the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia said while attacks are on the rise, foreign navies working together have stepped up patrols, and shippers are taking effective precautions against hostile boardings. This has kept the number of successful hijackings roughly the same as last year.

The raiders are adopting new tactics, however, operating farther from land in search of prey. Such a vast area of water is challenging to police, and more resources – particularly helicopters and aircraft – are needed to extend the effort's reach. There has been talk of a Pan-Arab naval task force joining the ships now stationed there by NATO, the European Union, Combined Maritime Forces and individual nations including China, India and Russia. Such a development would be welcome.

Piracy’s promise of ransom money, combined with the perception of impunity for criminal behavior, increases the need for precaution. With its recent indictment of 11 suspected pirates, the United States has shown its willingness to deliver judicial consequences. Others, including Germany, the Netherlands, France and Spain are prosecuting as well.

But many more states in the world are also capable of prosecuting pirates, especially in the immediate region. We particularly recognize and appreciate prosecution efforts by countries such as Kenya and the Seychelles, which the U.S. is working to support through both bilateral aid and contributions to a new UN-sponsored trust fund to defray judicial costs.

Growing international support for the Contact Group's work and the assistance it has provided Kenya, Somalia and other nations in the region, demonstrate a global consensus that piracy poses a shared security challenge to maritime safety. But as we work to combat piracy's impact at sea, we must never lose sight of the need to address the conditions in Somalia that have allowed piracy to take root.