01 May 2009

Analysis: Tangled military commands

One of the clear threads we described in the 2008 Yearbook was the devolution of military control throughout the year. The year began with a near unitary command situation: US Admiral Bill Gortney's US Navy forces dominated the region.

With the dramatic increase in piracy after commercial ships were herded into a patrol zone where no navy patrolled and after listening to various sociology and philosophy lessons given merchant seafarers by Admiral Gortney, the international community rose to the military challenge and sent navies to the region, taking care to keep those navies out of the hands of Gortney. Gortney's new CTF 151, a dedicated anti-piracy force intended to absorb various international contingents, attracted only the odd ship from America's closest allies. (Its website portrays an idle, self-absorbed command casting a lazy eye on news headlines from the region.)

In 2008, we watched independent Indian, Chinese, Russian, French and other flotillas rescue attacked ships, escort flagged vessels of their own nationality, and (too often) arrive late at the scene of a crime. Most curiously we saw the dispatch of allied fleets (from NATO and the EU) arrive to perform missions outside of any unifying leadership, U.S. or otherwise.

World Politics Review now suggests that the EU and NATO are "interblocking" in their bilateral dealings:
NATO and the EU now coexist with a confusing and ambiguous set of overlapping tasks, with no clear functional or geographical division of labor in the cards anytime soon. Nor have they signed any formal agreements regarding information sharing, security guarantees and a code of conduct, despite having troops [sailors], often from the same country, serving side by side in harm's way. Playing it by ear is the order of the day. Instead of interlocking, the two institutions have become interblocking.
Note that "NATO" refers to a separate command in the region, not to allied forces working under CTF 150 or CTF 151. Each of these CTFs has a different purpose as does the U.S. Fifth Fleet in the region.

Amidst this chaos - and we have not even considered independent forces here - we learn that NATO wants to revise its anti-piracy mission:
...the alliance has asked its military planners to come up with a stronger mandate and new rules of engagement for the mission ... a key issue is determining how to deal with captured pirates. NATO ships in recent weeks have captured several boatloads of suspected pirates but had to release them because of legal concerns.
None of this seems destined to influence command and control and the need for effective cooperation.