A threat to the Somali pirates looms large, due to forces outside of their control.
While crews continue to go on the account as always, including a recent try for an Iranian tanker, what could be the beginning of the end took place in Uganda, a landlocked country hundreds of miles away from the action. The bombing Sunday of two gatherings of World Cup fans by the al Shabaab militant group from Somalia puts pressure on the United States to do more beyond the occasional raiding action.
Despite the logistical nightmare of mounting an energized third theater, it’s not unreasonable to assume some sort of engagement might occur. The threat of a destabilized East Africa, within range of the Middle East and sitting along the routes in and out of the Persian Gulf, is not something easily ignored, and the Obama Administration has been showing more interest in the region than it’s seen in most of the last decade. While a long-term commitment by US ground forces is unlikely, working more closely with African peacekeepers seems to be in the works; expanded fire support for heavier engagements could be a way to bring more pressure to bear.
And if the African Union does stabilize (at least relatively) the Somali coast, where does that leave the pirates? In the short term, actions could probably continue on a limited basis, until order allows for a state that wants to join the rest of the world comes into being. At that point the show either shuts down or moves to another location.
Considering the pirates’ pursuit of profits and al Shabaab’s radical interpretations of Sharia, though, there is another option: By signing on early for letters of marque to work with the African Union, some clans may be able to transition out of the sweet trade into governance.
They wouldn’t be the first pirates to come ashore to a second career…