Mullen Promises Review of Antipiracy Ops

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The U.S. military has initiated a review to look "broadly and widely and deeply" at the overall strategy on piracy off the coast of Somalia, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said April 14.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, speaking on ABC's "Good Morning America," complimented those who carried out the mission that freed Merchant Marine Capt. Kevin Phillips. Somali pirates had held Phillips hostage since his ship, the Maersk-Alabama, was attacked April 8.

The Maersk-Alabama's crew managed to regain control of the cargo vessel, but pirates took Phillips hostage and sought shelter in an 18-foot lifeboat. Navy SEAL snipers aboard the USS Bainbridge (DDG 96) killed three of the pirates aboard the lifeboat when it appeared that Phillips' life was in imminent danger.

Piracy has been a problem for America since the founding of the republic, Mullen said.

"We've actually been focused on this issue for some period of time and set up a task force out in that part of the world last fall," he said. "We've had a focus on it."

Some 16 nations have warships in the region, which covers 1.1 million square miles, a vast area that is difficult to cover; in fact, pirates captured the Greek merchant vessel Irene overnight. "It's a going business for the pirates," Mullen said.

Part of the problem with piracy off Somalia – a failed state – is what to do with pirates who are captured. Mullen said the United States and Kenya have a bilateral agreement for the African nation to prosecute any pirates captured on the high seas in the region.

"There's a lot of work to do. It's a big challenge, but there are many, many people working on it right now," Mullen said.

Pirates have vowed reprisals on the United States for the successful operation to free Phillips.

"I certainly take their comments afterwards seriously," Mullen said. "That said, we are very well prepared to deal with anything like that. And that will be part of our military review."

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