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Fact Sheet
International Organization Affairs
Washington, DC
December 17, 2008

United States Actions on Somalia Piracy

The United States remains deeply concerned by the continuing threat of piracy in the Horn of Africa and its impact on commercial shipping, the safety of mariners, the delivery of critical humanitarian assistance to Somalia and overall stability in the region. Ending this threat requires the combined will and efforts of the whole international community to stabilize Somalia and strengthen its governmental institutions. The United States believes that a proper United Nations supported peacekeeping mission is necessary to combat piracy in the Horn of Africa, and we are committed to working with other countries to:

  • increase counter-piracy intelligence, military and industry operations;
  • strengthen cooperation with private industry to enhance self-defense capabilities;
  • develop legal frameworks and mechanisms for bringing ashore and to justice persons under control as a result of counter-piracy operations;
  • provide assistance to build the judicial capacity of regional governments, institutions and authorities to conduct prosecutions;
  • develop national capabilities to gather, assess, and share financial intelligence information on pirate financial operations;
  • engage in bilateral and multilateral diplomatic and public diplomacy efforts to deter and respond to piracy threats, through these and other actions.

United States Efforts on Piracy

  • The United States continues to work with the international community to ensure the protection of shipping lanes and to bring pirates to justice. These efforts include establishing a Maritime Security Patrol Area in the Gulf of Aden in which war ships patrol to provide a more secure corridor through which merchant shipping can pass, increasing naval forces for counter-piracy operations, seeking commitments from affected and interested countries to detain and prosecute piracy suspects, and providing necessary resources as appropriate.
  • As part of the Standing North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Maritime Group 2, the United States supported counter-piracy operations and escorts for World Food Program vessels delivering humanitarian assistance to Somalia. 
    • This year alone, the United States provided eighty percent of the UN World Food Program’s funding for Somalia, supplying critical humanitarian assistance to the estimated 3.5 million Somalis dependent on humanitarian aid. 
  • The United States is engaged in ongoing collaboration and coordination with the shipping industry and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to urge vessel operators to take appropriate measures to avoid attack and boarding by pirates. We also actively support the IMO’s efforts to facilitate cooperation among countries in the region to share information, conduct coordinated patrols and develop the capacity to prosecute pirates.

United Nations Efforts Against Piracy 

  • The United States, along with the international community, continues to use the legal framework provided by international treaties for addressing piracy. The UN Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) gives authorities the power to arrest or deter pirates on the high seas. The IMO’s Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation (SUA), i.a., requires parties to criminalize, establish jurisdiction, and accept delivery of persons responsible for these kinds of acts. 
  • The U.S. has played a leading role in the UN Security Council in fighting piracy. In 2008, the Security Council passed resolutions 1816 (June), 1838 (September), and 1846 (December), which contribute to the international framework for addressing piracy in waters off Somalia. Resolutions 1816 and 1846 authorize countries cooperating with the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia to take all necessary measures consistent with UNCLOS to repress piratical acts in the territorial sea of Somalia. 
  • The United States recognizes piracy is a symptom of the lack of stability, security, economic development, and rule of law on the ground. Addressing these deficits in Somalia. Therefore, the United States recognizes the need for the deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping operation. The United States will continue discussing the issue with like minded states and preparing a UN Security Council Resolution to deploy a UN peacekeeping mission as soon as possible. 
  • On December 16 Secretary Rice and the other Security Council Ministers unanimously voted to adopt resolution 1851, co-sponsored by the United States, France, Liberia, Greece, and Belgium. Resolution 1851 authorizes states cooperating with the Somali Transitional Federal Government to extend counter-piracy efforts to include potential operations in Somali territorial land and airspace, to suppress acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea. The resolution urges countries to establish international cooperation mechanism as a common point of contact for counter-piracy activities near Somalia, and to efforts to enhance the judicial capacity of regional states to combat piracy, including the judicial capacity to prosecute pirates.

African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM):

There are currently over 3,400 troops in Somalia as part of the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM), with the potential for additional battalions to arrive in the next 2-4 months.
  • The United States continues to support the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), and urges all states to do the same until a UN Peacekeeping Operations can be deployed. 
  • In the past year, the United States provided AMISOM with logistics and equipment, including fuel and food, spending over $67 million. The U.S. currently assists with the build up of Somali-led military and police forces to help manage the country's security challenges.


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