Somali Pirates Hijack Another U.S. Owned Vessel

Things are not looking up in the Gulf of Aden. The Somali pirates have hijacked a U.S. owned tugboat with 16 crew members on board. The boat flies under an Italian flag.

The pirates are threatening "a disaster" if a rescue attempt is made for Captain Phillips.

"I'm afraid this matter is likely to create disaster because it is taking too long and we are getting information that the Americans are planning rescue tricks like the French commandos did," Abdi Garad said.

The warship USS Bainbridge is on scene and other American warships are en route. The pirates intend to move Capt Richard Phillips from the lifeboat to a bigger boat. Experts predict the pirates will cave in. [More...]

Experts said it was doubtful, however, that the pirates would attempt a dramatic confrontation with U.S. warships that could result in casualties. Maritime officials said their best option now was to give up Phillips in exchange for being allowed to return to Somalia.

"That's how it will end," predicted Andrew Mwangura, the director of the East African Seafarers' Assistance Program, who tracks piracy from Mombasa. "They have no bargaining power now. They don't have a ship, they don't have cargo, and they are surrounded."

Nonetheless, a convoy of 20 pirates headed for the area in jeeps last night.

As for the lifeboat:

The lifeboat, which has enough food and water for 10 days and a range of about 100 miles, was believed to be moving slowly toward the coastline of Somalia. But the official said the U.S. military had "clearly no intention to allow it go anywhere near shore or allow it closer to another vessel."

And the hijacked U.S.S. Maersk Alabama will be back in Kenya within hours with all crew except Captain Phillips on board.

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    I hope (none / 0) (#1)
    by Ga6thDem on Sat Apr 11, 2009 at 11:37:27 AM EST
    I'm wrong but this is starting to remind me of Jimmy Carter and the operation to rescue the hostages.

    Seems like a pretty hard stretch to me (none / 0) (#2)
    by Inspector Gadget on Sat Apr 11, 2009 at 12:09:53 PM EST
    Very different IMO.

    You would do well to read up on that (none / 0) (#3)
    by scribe on Sat Apr 11, 2009 at 01:42:04 PM EST
    mission before flinging a crappy analogy out there.  Because that analogy does not obtain.

    Eagle Claw "failed", in the sense that it did not achieve its objective of rescuing the hostages from captivity, from one proximate cause:  bad weather (and its sequelae) that could not be overcome.

    Some of the helicopters got lost (this was before GPS) and therefore delayed and/or damaged (to the point of being unusable) in the weather (a sandstorm), then there was an on-ground collision involving a C-130 and a helo, and a failure of reconaissance which vitiated surprise.  

    The first two issues led to the force having insufficient helicopters to complete the mission.  The plan had a built-cushion of 2 helicopters:  8 flew but only 6 were needed.  After subtracting from the force the helos lost/damaged in weather and collision, there were only 5 flyable helicopters left.  The plan - and this was briefed in the WH - could not be carried out with only five helicopters.  Period.  Everyone knew it, everyone accepted it and, when it came down to five (even though there was discussion about going forward with five), the decision was made to stick to the plan.  

    The weather also made for serious delays in carrying out the plan - the late-arriving helicopters (late because they got lost in the weather - this was a number of years before GPS was available) were not able to complete refueling and reach their preplanned "hide site" with enough darkness left to complete hiding them from prying eyes (and ears) prior to sunup.  They would have been discovered.

    The last - failure of reconaissance - was due, in large part, to there being no effective on-ground human assets in Iran at the time:  no one knew what the bus schedules were in that part of the world and an overnight long-haul civilian bus (full of passengers) bumbled onto the refueling site right as (a) the refueling was going on and (b) the collision took place.  There was no way to hold them up (a whole busload of people going missing would have drawn attention at the next bus stop) nor to dispose of them (we don't do mass killings of civilians).  To make matters worse, more traffic started showing up after the bus.  Probably well over a hundred civilians....

    Charlie Beckwith wrote about the mission and creating Delta Force, in an eponymous book.  It's a good read for a rainy afternoon.

    The present situation is vastly different.  We have a ship, an unpowered lifeboat, 300 miles of ocean between the two of them and land, and nothing but time.  No one needs to surprise anyone, and all that really needs be done is wait.  The pirates know that if they harm their hostage they will die and have the hope that if they do not, they will live.  Rationality (I know - often in short supply) would dictate surrender.

    We'll see if it turns out, but I'd bet it turns out well.


    Oh, please (none / 0) (#5)
    by Ga6thDem on Sat Apr 11, 2009 at 02:06:52 PM EST
    I'm talking about the mission being successful. If the mission is not successful then that's all that's going to matter in the end. Nobody will want to hear about the weather or anything.

    In terms of political impact (none / 0) (#4)
    by Cream City on Sat Apr 11, 2009 at 01:58:39 PM EST
    -- aside from the military detail above -- you may have a point, and especially with another U.S. ship taken now.  The acceleration of "news time" also could mean that what stretched for several hundred days then might be tolerated by the public for far fewer days now.  The political impact could be reduced, of course, because this is occurring early in the Obama administration, as compared to during the campaign season late in Carter's term.  

    Thank you. (none / 0) (#6)
    by Ga6thDem on Sat Apr 11, 2009 at 02:08:29 PM EST
    That's the perspective I was thinking about. If that Captain and crew do not get out alive the mission will not be viewed as successful.

    And as far (none / 0) (#7)
    by Ga6thDem on Sat Apr 11, 2009 at 02:09:59 PM EST
    as impact goes, it will depend. If Obama isn't successful it will be used as yet another example of why he's a failure. If he succeeds then people probably won't care so much.

    Obama should look into boarding as many of these.. (none / 0) (#9)
    by Salo on Sun Apr 12, 2009 at 06:13:09 PM EST
    ...ships as he can.  There's very little risk of losing military personnel. The benefit will be ending piracy in that region.

    The Pirates are not armed like Iran. (none / 0) (#8)
    by Salo on Sun Apr 12, 2009 at 06:10:55 PM EST
    We'll lose hostages but very few of our own Navy and Spec ops.