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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Maritime Security: Coalition Warfare in the 5th Fleet AOR

Interview with VADM Cosgriff, Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet, reported here:
Question: How critical is the policing of the maritime lanes around the volatile areas of the Gulf and the Indian Ocean?

Answer: Well, I usually don't use the term "policing," but seeking to create a maritime order in that part of the world I think is very important. Security in that region writ large, but especially maritime security, is the foundation for regional stability, regional prosperity, and arguably a larger global economic stability, if you think in terms of just safeguarding the free flow of oil and other energy.

But within the region, there are other concerns, such as fishing, poaching or violation of fishing rules. There's piracy, there's human smuggling, drug smuggling. These are things the regional countries care deeply about. ... And again, all of that is the backdrop against violent extremism, which does have a maritime connection.

Q: You also head a naval coalition of 20 nations, contributing to the collective effort in a strategic region that is also a critical choke point for global trade. What would be the risks to global commerce of an incident in that region, and how well prepared are the forces to flush it out?

A: Big question. At least one-third of the containerized cargo moves in the Indian Ocean, probably close to 40 percent of the world's oil, and a large percentage of natural gas comes out of the Gulf proper. The coalition typically is focused on safeguarding the use of the [waters] by fishermen and by shipping companies. It is a non-country-specific [operation], in the sense ... it's a coalition force for maritime security not against a country, or countries.

Q: There have been quite a number of piracy incidents and alerts of piracy off the coast of Yemen and Somalia, and merchant vessels are asked to stay at least 50 miles off the coast. Are the resources to combat this sufficient, or would you welcome more nations to participate in this collective action?

A: There's 2.5 million square miles under our command. It's a huge area, and the Somali basin is a very large area. The coast of Somalia itself is 1,500 miles long from Kenya to Djibouti. Because of the combination of the size of the operation, and the size of the forces we have assigned to us routinely, it is a challenge to get the right forces of sufficient numbers and capacity in the right area for a long enough period of time to actually have an impact.

We know that we can disrupt piracy, [but] so far we've been unable to completely deter it. And we are pursuing other countries who want to join with us, to help us. [It is not confined to operations at sea]. There's a range of activities to help to curtail that sort of behavior. Not the least of which is to help the transnational government of Somalia develop, and get control ashore so the people there engaged in piracy can find more useful and lawful pursuits.
He also addresses naval working relations with the Iranian Navy and more - worth the short time it takes to read it all.

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