It seems that I was uncharitable towards the French in last night’s post, because the U.S. Navy is also unwilling to follow pirates into Somali territorial waters.
According to yesterday’s Navy Times:
The dock landing ship Carter Hall shot flares, fired warning bursts and unleashed a volley that set fire to three skiffs towed behind a hijacked Danish cargo ship off Somalia on Tuesday, but it could not prevent the freighter from slipping out of international waters and towards a known pirate camp, the Navy said.
The Danica White, a Danish-flagged merchant vessel with a crew of five, was hijacked by pirates early Saturday in view of a French warship that could not cross into Somali territorial waters to offer help. The Danica White never radioed for assistance, but the Carter Hall called to ask if it needed help, said Lt. John Gay, a spokesman with Navy Forces Central Command in Bahrain.
“They made several calls and tried to hail the ship,” he said. “They responded they were under control of pirates.”
The hijacked ship then tried to get the Carter Hall to change course so it could proceed to Somali waters unobstructed, which was when American sailors spotted at least one armed man on the freighter’s bridge wing, Gay said. That’s when the amphib’s guns opened fire.
“The USS Carter Hall fired flares and several shots across the bow as well as several disabling shots at the three skiffs in tow,” he said. “They shot at the skiffs and they caught on fire.”
Sailors used the ship’s .50-caliber machine guns, 7.62 mm miniguns and 25 mm Bushmaster cannons in the encounter, Gay said.
“As long as they’re in international waters, they can engage,” he said.
But the hijacked Danica White made it into Somali waters and the Carter Hall had to back off and watch.
“We’re observing them at this point,” Gay said. “It’s ongoing.”
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The Carter Hall, a ship designed to haul Marines and their gear, left its homeport of Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, Va., on April 10 without a Marine contingent on what was described as catch-all “maritime security operations” in the Middle East. Gay said the Carter Hall is in the waters off eastern Africa specifically for “anti-piracy search operations.”
On Friday, a U.S. Navy destroyer is reported to have bombarded a terrorist position in Somalia, although officials would not provide any details.
This is something I find hard to understand. Somalia is a failed state, a lawless enclave for warring tribes and Al Qaeda thugs. Its “government” cannot carry out the normal functions of a nation-state, and has virtually no control over its territory, whether on land or at sea.
So why is the Navy under orders not to venture into Somalia’s territorial waters to rescue the victims of piracy?
I’m sure there’s a good, sound reason behind this policy. Maybe we want to make sure that Iran won’t see our example as a license to make mischief in the Persian Gulf — whoops, that’s right; I forgot about those British hostages. And now there are three Finnish hostages in the hands of the mullahs.
So the Navy can bombard Somalia, but it can’t follow a scurvy pirate scow past the territorial limit and save the lives of the pirates’ victims?
Don’t make no sense.