USS Boxer LHD 4 amphibious assault ship

USS Boxer LHD 4 Wasp class amphibious assault ship (click photo to see enlarged version)

The USS Boxer, pictured above, has just been named the flagship of the Combined Task Force 151 off the coast of Somalia.

From the Wikipedia entry on wasp class amphibious assault ship

The Wasp class amphibious assault ships of the United States Navy are designed to land forces on hostile shores, and they are the largest vessels of this type in service anywhere in the world. They are named after former aircraft carriers, United States Marine Corps battles such as the USS Iwo Jima (LHD-7), and previous amphibious assault ships. The Wasp class has an air group of helicopters that are used to ferry Marines and equipment to the shore from the ships. These helicopters are supplemented by a squadron of up to eight AV-8B Harrier II V/STOL ground-attack aircraft. Up to 20 Harriers can be embarked when the ship is used as a temporary STOVL or “Harrier Carrier.”[2] They also possess a “well”-deck for launching smaller landing craft, up to three Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) hovercraft or Landing Craft Utility (LCUs).

As you can read, the Wasp class LDH 4 is designed for land assaults. You can see the helicopters and other equipment and features in the photo above.

USS BOXER, At Sea (NNS) — USS Boxer (LHD 4) … assumed the role as flagship for Combined Task Force (CTF) 151 March 8 after arriving in the U.S. 5th Fleet Area of Operations as part of a regularly-scheduled deployment.

Established in early January, CTF 151’s mandate is to deter and disrupt piracy in the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and the Red Sea and currently includes naval forces from the United States, United Kingdom, Denmark and Turkey.

“We’ve had a great deal of success in deterring piracy to this point,” said Rear Adm. Terence McKnight, commander, CTF 151. “We’ve conducted counter-piracy operations on the amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio (LPD 17), two guided-missile cruisers — USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) and USS Monterey (CG 61) — and now we’re going to continue our mission on Boxer, which continues our line of extremely flexible platforms. Boxer has a lot to offer in the fight against piracy.”

McKnight said that CTF 151 has coordinated with many nations to help thwart piracy in the region.

“Piracy isn’t a problem that affects one or two nations,” he said. “It’s a problem that affects the whole world and the free flow of commerce in the world’s waterways. Piracy requires an international solution.”

Of course, almost anyone who knows anything about Somalia and the Somali pirates will tell you that the only way to solve the piracy problem is to solve the political problem in Somalia by allowing a working government to settle in and try to work, without the disruptions of invasion, bombing campaigns, and other destabilizing interference, as the US did with the Ethiopians, bombing and invading Somalia at the end of 2006.

Piracy in Somalia cannot be defeated by military means alone, and dialogue with pirates is needed to address the root causes of the problem …

… Mwangura said without the involvement of local communities in Somalia the efforts were doomed to failure.

“If you are not going to invite the local community, it is not going to work,” he said. “We need to come up with a regional piracy information centre, security in Somalia and a regional action plan on illegal fishing and toxic dumping.”

Fishermen began targeting ships in the early 90s, saying they were defending their coastline from illegal fishing and boats dumping toxic waste in Somali waters.

UN Special Representative for Somalia Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah said the two issues were closely linked …

It is clear that the problem of piracy is linked to the need for peace and stability in Somalia itself,” …

While Mwangura said this means pirates now can seize fewer ships, he said that naval patrols were never going to solve the problem completely.

“The warships are doing something, but it is only a short-term solution,” he said.

Combined Task Force 151, of which the USS Boxer is the flagship, from a jan 26th update:

Task Force 151 is a multinational force recently organized to conduct land and air attacks on pirate bases along Somalia´s coast. The task force is operating in the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea …

This was described in January by:

ADM. MCKNIGHT: Right now we’re looking at the — what we call a phase two operation — (audio break) — after the pirates and take them, you know, basically like a — round them up like a police force would, and basically take them to a country. And it was announced on the 16th of January that Kenya has agreed to take the pirates if we capture them. Now the lawyers are at work for the particulars, and as soon as we (can?) get those mechanisms in place, then we will shift our operation to go — to possibly go after some of the pirates and take them to Kenya. And they will be of course prosecuted in the Kenyan courts.

Phase two is probably:

a reference to the traditional phases of military campaigns:

0. shaping
1. deter/engage
2. seize the initiative
3. decisive operations / dominate
4. transition

PHASE II–SEIZE INITIATIVE The primary focus of ‘Phase II’ operations is to deny the enemy its objective. This is done by executing offensive operations at the earliest possible time, with the aim of delaying, impeding, or halting the enemy’s aggression, and otherwise creating the conditions for the exploitation, pursuit, and ultimate destruction of enemy forces. During this phase, joint forces strive to gain access to infrastructure and to stabilize all lines of communication.

Gaining access to infrastructure requires invasion. The infrastructure is on land. If land invasions are planned or underway, this is just another example of what Steve Coll writes:

Military liaison, even if it is conceived progressively, becomes its own self-fulfilling destination, especially when the rest of the U.S. government is starved, by comparison, for resources.

If further invasion and interference with Somalia is the agenda, and it looks like it is, as Daniel Volman & William Minter write more generally about AFRICOM in: Making Peace or Fueling War in Africa:

It will divert scarce budget resources, build resentment, and undercut the long-term interests of the United States.

Like the whole of AFRICOM, these Somalia policies:

… are in fact counterproductive, both increasing insecurity in Africa and energizing potential threats to U.S. interests.

Many thanks to b real, who follows this story with in depth research and in great detail at Moon of Alabama You can read more in the comment threads on these posts:
Behind ‘Fighting Piracy’
A Carrier Group to Attack Somalia
Somalia Thread for the most recent updates.

ADDED 3/17

b real added a comment on my earlier post that has much that is relevant to this post. I’ll add a couple of brief quotes here. He quotes an opinion piece published in Nairobi’s Daily Nation:

… what concerned me even more was Clinton’s assertion that the top US priority in Africa was “security”, which she described as “combating al-Qaida’s efforts to seek safe havens in failed states in the Horn of Africa”.

In short, America isn’t going to think about Africa much, but when it does, it will be to continue the Bush-era habit of worrying that there is an al-Qaida militant under every bed.

And he quotes Michael Weinstein about a recent CSIS panel on Somalia.

Somali civil society organizations … despite their diversity, their top priority was invariably peace and reconstruction.

Over and over again, their remarks betrayed a sense of astonishment and disbelief that the international coalition did not realize, particularly after the failure of the Ethiopian occupation, that the path to stabilization lay in helping Somalia rebuild its political and physical infra-structure, which, in their view, could be achieved at less financial cost than continued emphasis on military containment of terrorists and pirates. Why, they repeatedly asked this writer, did Washington, in particular, fail to understand what they believed was so obvious?

The disastrously ill-advised and destructive policies of the Bush administration are still operating in full force in Africa, being carried out by most of the same people who mismanaged things for Bush.

All of this is a huge and destructive waste of US taxpayer money. Those who don’t care one way or another about Somalia or Kenya, or even Africa, should understand these policies are a threat to the long term interests of the United States.

ADDED April 10, 2009:

There is much relevant information regarding the potential for invasion and war in the comment thread at Moon of Alabama Africa Comments. For the Somalia oil connection see comments 18 and 31, 32, 33. And there is much more information about the attempted hijacking of the Maersk Alabama starting with comment 21 and following, including these notes in 28.

this has gotta be bullshit. who are the kidnappers? special forces?
anomalies in this story:

  • only four individuals attempting to hijack a ship
  • sinking their own boat after boarding
  • taking a hostage off the vessel
  • and from 34:

    “It was on a regular three-port rotation through the Indian Ocean from Salalah, Oman, to Djibouti and then to Mombasa, [John F. Reinhart, president and CEO of Maersk Line Ltd.] said”

    If this is correct:

    1. where did the ship pick up its alleged cargo of humanitarian supplies? from the u.s. military base of CJTF-HOA in djibouti? or oman?

    2. how many pirates were involved in the hijacking? reports providing a number list it as four. four pirates in two skiffs? that far out at sea? even four individuals in only one skiff is an anomaly – esp taking on a vessel of that size, not to mention, one flying the stars & stripes.