But There is No Pirate-Terrorist Nexus

>> Wednesday, February 24, 2010

David Axe at War is Boring critiques the latest Navy strategy document for conflating piracy, terrorists and national insurgents.

There are no proven links between Somali pirates, based in northern Somalia, and the major, “terroristic” insurgent groups operations based in southern and central Somalia. Anyway, Shabab and pirates are separate, even conflicting, entities. Shabab even promised to fight pirates who last year seized a Saudi oil tanker carrying $100 million in crude. Wider, more entrenched Islamic control in Somalia could actually decrease piracy, as it did during the previous Islamic rule three years ago. Piracy thrives in the absence of law and order, and law and order happen to be exactly what Islamists are good at.
He's right, as far as I can tell. In fact I just sat on a panel at ISA where three separate paper authors made this point.

In addition to the facts-on-the-ground that Axe mentions, there's also the basic distinction in the strategic and moral logic of the two types of actors. Jihadist networks are attempting to disrupt and overthrow the global trading system; pirates rely on it for profit. Jihadist networks aim for spectacular media coverage; piracy works best when it's under the radar. Jihadist networks aim to kill as many people as they can with each attack; pirates, at least in the Gulf of Aden, are after ransom and make every effort to spare lives.

Given the difference in the preferences of both sets of actors, it stands to reason (at least from a strategic choice perspective) that very different policy approaches are needed to deal with them.

[cross-posted at Current Intelligence]


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