Key Maritime Region

BERLIN/MOGADISHU | | somaliachina

BERLIN/MOGADISHU (Own report) - The EU will expand its military operations against "pirates" at the Horn of Africa and train Somali soldiers for land combat missions. This was decided by the EU's foreign and defense ministers. According to their plan, Somali soldiers are to attack the "pirates" on the mainland, thereby depriving them of their bases of retreat. This plan signifies a further escalation of the war in Somalia, which since early 2007 has already cost 19,000 civilians their lives and forced 1.5 million to flee their homes. According to these plans, training will be carried out in Uganda, thereby implicating yet another East African nation in this conflict. On various occasions, Somali militias have threatened reprisals on countries, whose governments have openly taken sides in this conflict. Under pressure from the west, Kenya is also in danger of becoming implicated in this war. At the same time, the EU is expanding its zone of maritime intervention to include the Seychelles. A former head of the Policy and Planning Staff of the German Defense Ministry points out that the naval forces are operating in a region decisive for determining Asia's power constellation - the Indian Ocean. According to this retired Vice Admiral, not only "piracy" will be decided in this region, also the position China will hold in the future.

Escalation of the War

The EU will dispatch between 100 and 200 soldiers to Uganda to train Somali soldiers for combat against the "pirates" at the Horn of Africa.[1] This decision was taken this week by the EU's foreign and defense ministers. The training program will cover twelve months and is intended to make up to 2,000 soldiers ready for combat. France is carrying out similar measures in Djibouti. Spain, Great Britain, Slovenia, Hungary and Greece have assured their participation. It is not yet clear, whether German soldiers will also participate. The previous German administration had planned to take part. The Somali soldiers are to attack the "pirates" on the mainland, depriving them of their bases of retreat. De facto, this plan signifies an escalation of the war in Somalia. Currently the combat is centered on Mogadishu and the southern part of the country. If the EU executes its plans, the north of the country, where the "pirates" have their bases, would also be engulfed in heavy conflict.

Extension of the War

Brussels' plans threaten to also draw more East African nations into the war. Somali militias have already threatened Uganda and Burundi, on several occasions, with reprisals. These two countries are providing the intervention troops of the African Union, charged with maintaining the so-called transitional government in Mogadishu in power. In fact, they only have control of a couple of streets. If the EU carries out its training courses in Uganda, rather than Somalia, out of fear of attacks, it will heighten the danger of attacks on the host country. Kenya, as well, is being progressively drawn into the conflict. Because of western insistence, numerous "pirates" have been convicted in Nairobi. In addition, the Kenyan military, under western pressure, has begun recruiting new combatants to support Somalia's pro-western "transitional government", from among Somali refugees in Kenyan camps and the Somali-speaking population in northern Kenya.[2] Nairobi's critics are outraged. Recruitment of militiamen is not only in violation of international accords, it is particularly violating Kenya's official neutrality, making it a party to the conflict.[3]

In the Indian Ocean

Simultaneous with its decision to train Somali soldiers, the EU decided to prolong its naval mission at the Horn of Africa - for the time being, for another year. The German cabinet passed a decision with the same wording, this week for the German navy. Effective resistance in the parliament, which must approve the decision, is considered out of the question. The mandate prolongation covers the extended region of the mandate, which now stretches deep into the Indian Ocean to the Seychelles. According to a high-ranking German officer, the "anti-pirate mission" is simultaneously aimed at a German military presence in a sea of particular geostrategic significance - in the struggle with China over influence.

Decisive for Asia

As retired Vice Admiral Ulrich Weisser, former head of the Policy and Planning Staff of the German Defense Ministry wrote in an article under his byline, the Indian Ocean holds in general not only "the key to the world's seas, particularly the sea routes to the Pacific," which, in itself, is of enormous importance, given the fact that a "large part of the world's commerce" is dependent upon these sea routes.[4] But the Indian Ocean is particularly "decisive for the future Asian power constellations, above all between India and China." This is of enormous importance, since for some time now, the west has been seeking to pit the Asian rival, India, against China, to weaken the influence of the People's Republic, the assumed future world power.[5]

String of Pearls Strategy

In his article, Ulrich Weisser writes that Beijing has long since adapted to this situation and has quietly begun to use countermeasures. "In the Indian Ocean, China is employing the so called string of pearls strategy," the former head of the defense ministry's policy and planning staff writes. It is aiming "to secure itself a growing number of harbors and bases around India."[6] According to Weisser, Beijing is constructing "an important naval base with extensive reconnaissance facilities" in Gwadar (Pakistan), using the harbors in Pasni (Pakistan) and in Chittagong (Bangladesh) and is securing a bunker station for itself in Sri Lanka. In Myanmar, China is constructing docks for merchant and warships." This is making the Indian Navy "nervous," because it has its own hegemonic plans for the Indian Ocean. The "maritime rivalry" between India and China "is coming more and more to the fore."


Concerning the People's Republic of China, Weisser asserts that "in this situation, the US Pacific Fleet is playing a major role to maintain the strategic balance."[7] EU warships, including those from Germany, are establishing their presence in the western Indian Ocean - a welcomed side effect of the war on "pirates". In efforts to contain China, geo-strategists are placing a high priority on western presence in this Ocean - a small foretaste of conflicts to come.

[1] More EU troops to train Somali forces; 18.11.2009
[2] Human Rights Watch: Kenya: Stop Recruitment of Somalis in Refugee Camps; 22.10.2009
[3] Kenya admits to secret police training for Somalia; Daily Nation 24.10.2009
[4] Ulrich Weisser: Fregatten statt Panzer; Süddeutsche Zeitung 17.11.2009
[5] see also Friedensmächte and Der dritte Pfeiler
[6], [7] Ulrich Weisser: Fregatten statt Panzer; Süddeutsche Zeitung 17.11.2009