Pentagon: Piracy Is Making A Comeback In Somalia

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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Piracy is making a comeback off the coast of Somalia, Pentagon officials said Sunday at a news conference.

In the last two months alone, there have been five or six cases of piracy near Somalia, said Marine Corps Gen. Thomas Waldhauser at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, The Washington Post reports.

The uptick is worrying because after an extensive crackdown in 2011, a year which saw 237 attacks, piracy was very nearly stamped out. In the post-2011 aftermath, the number of cases dropped significantly, continuing all the way up until 2016, in which there were zero successful attacks recorded.

That pattern changed in 2017. Piracy appears to be back.

“It has certainly increased,” said Navy Capt. Richard Rodriguez, chief of staff for a U.S. task force in Djibouti.

Waldhauser said the increase in piracy cases is likely due to drought and famine in the region, and coincidentally, pirates have been targeting smaller sized ships carrying food and oil.

The U.N. World Food Program stated that 20 million people in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen are on the verge of dying from starvation within the next six months.

An anonymous defense official told The Washington Post that part of the blame also rests on the shoulders of shipping companies, which have become lax with security standards, given that attacks have up until now largely trailed off.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who was present at the news conference, said he did not anticipate a U.S. military response to the 2017 piracy resurgence.

“I don’t see a big military role,” he said.

Although Mattis doesn’t seem terribly interested in targeting piracy, President Donald Trump has stepped up other kinds of military activity in the region. He authorized the Pentagon in March to conduct new airstrikes against al-Shabab, a terror group in Somalia. In the last two months, the Pentagon has launched 70 airstrikes against al-Qaida fighters in Yemen, which is twice the number conducted in 2016.

The Pentagon uses Camp Lemonnier to dispatch forces into Yemen and Somalia.

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