OPINION | European Security Intervention vs NATO Approach in Somalia by Flavio Sanguigni

OPINION | European Security Intervention vs NATO Approach in Somalia by Flavio Sanguigni

By Flavio Sanguigni
Italian Naval Officer
In recent years, the Horn of Africa and its multiple conflicts have concerned single states, and international organizations. Piracy and fundamentalism have dominated this strategic area. Somalia, after a long civil war, developed as fail state under a process of religious radicalism, and as the cradle of piracy.
In this note, EUTM Somalia and EU NAVFOR Somalia will be briefly contrasted to the NATO Ocean Shield anti-piracy mission.
Following UN resolutions, receiving appreciation from the Somalian Transitional Federal Government (TFG), and a warm welcome from the African Union (AU), The European Union Training Mission in Somalia (EUTM Somalia), was established by the EU Council’s decision in February 2010 and launched the following April.
The reasons for the intervention included the support for the TFG, so as to establish law and order, and provide the population with basic needs while building a functioning state. The main tasks for the mission, involved the training of military forces on basic and specialized subjects. The initial effort concretised in the taking over of the training already occurring in Uganda.
The council’s decision stressed the need to operate in collaboration with the international community (UN, AU and US) to assure that the trained military received support from international stakeholders upon their return to Somalia. It also required a coordinated multinational/multi-agency effort to avoid duplication.
Following the new institutional course in the country, and a better security situation, EUTM moved to the Mogadishu International Airport (MIA) in January 2014. Since the beginning of the mandate which was extended 3 times, the mission trained 4,000 army soldiers which in itself had a massive impact on the country’s and the region’s security.
The mission’s mandate is to expire in March 2015 and since the relocation in Mogadishu, new tasks such as strategic guidance for the local defence institutions and the general staff, have been fulfilled.
Despite this, there is still much to be done and this could possibly mean that the mandate will be extended again. As seen in previous EU operations, the handover could be best carried out through a civilian capacity building mission, especially in the field of policing. Again, succeeding in these endeavours require a strict collaboration with other EU actors and international stakeholders in the country/region.
Succeeding the United Nations Security Council (UNSC)’s resolutions 1814-1816 and 1838, and the EU Council’s joint action in November 2008, the first EU Naval operation was established. The reasons for the intervention and the duties/tasks included: protection for World Food Program’s ships, direct escort for selected vessels, patrolling of Somalia territorial waters, prevention and deterrence of piracy acts, capture, take under custody and handover of suspected personnel.
Operational HQ has been based in Northwood UK, where the NATO Naval Operation Command is also located. Force HQ has been based on board of a flag ship with an international staff, rotating among contributing member states every 4 months. Thanks to the cooperative international effort, pirate attacks have dropped from 171 in 2011, when the problem was at its peak , to 2 in 2014 and from 25 pirated vessels in 2011 to none in 2014.
During this period, seafarers have been kept in captivity for an average of 145 days. EU member states, have voluntarily contributed assets according to national capability and international commitments.
The current mandate will last until December 2016, and with the drop in attacks, EU NAVFOR, will go through a major strategic review.
The main focus could lie in supporting full time regional capacity building programmes in general, and EUCAP Nestor’s civilian capacity building mission in particular.
EU NAVFOR: Soldiers from different branches of the
Estonian Armed Forces, are deployed on board the FS Courb

After a direct UN request in 2008, NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) has intervened in the Indian Ocean with various missions. Operation Allied Provider in 2008, Operation Allied Protector in 2009 and eventually Ocean Shield from August 2009, focused more or less on the same anti-piracy duties and tasks of EU NAVFOR.
For all these operations, and up to the end of 2014, NATO has relied on the Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 (SNMG1) and 2 (SNMG2).
These groups are rapid-response capacity forces, highly trained and integrated, and compel members of the alliance to participate according to agreements following strict standards (STANAG –Standard NATO Agreements) on procedures, equipment and logistics.
Outcomes from these operations are similar to the ones obtained in the EU mission in the shared effort against piracy. Whilst the current mandate is granted until the end of 2016, it is not clear what kind of forces will be employed since SNMGs have been withdrawn from these kinds of operations.
NATO alternatives for the future of these operations and a possible follow up are less wide than that of the EU, and despite having a close collaboration with the UN, would lack any sense of continuity. Furthermore, the evidence of SNMGs withdrawal from anti-piracy operations could be a clear signal of a gradual disengagement without any follow up.
Whilst can be acknowledged the positive NATO experiences for the EU navies, some “structural problems” can be addressed in EU operations, where different countries question the structure and organisation of the forces. Member states which retain the operational command, sometimes create overlapping and inconsistencies.
Modern military interventions cannot be seen as standalone efforts, and require combined operations.
As seen above, it can be concluded that despite the fact that EU countries participate in both organizations, NATO has a ready deploy-able, highly standardized, well proven and committed force, whereas the EU military efforts falling under the Common Security and Defence Policy/European External Action Service, are harder to manage at tactical level.
For the EU, the military interventions have a wider range of payback and are part of a more comprehensive approach. Despite some overlapping and a need for efficiency, they nonetheless have a coherent strategy. Further, there is the added benefit of a possible handover with civilian capacity building missions as well as EU Commission initiatives, supported by EU development funds.

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