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EU airstrike on Somali pirates echoes US drone strategy

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It was the first time that Washington admitted that US “boots” were ashore in Somalia, but defense sources and Somali eye witnesses have reported on several occasions in the past that American forces have carried out raids in the country. This has always been denied by US government officials. 

Meanwhile, unmanned drones launched from a circle of US airbases, or airports in countries allied to Washington, have targeted – often successfully – agents of Al Shabab, Somalia’s Al Qaeda-linked Islamist militants.

'A dangerous game'

By bringing its fighting strategy more in line with that of the US, Europe is playing “a very dangerous game," says Bronwyn Burton,  deputy director of the Michael S. Ansari Center at The Atlantic Council and an expert on Somalia. 

“Both sides would probably agree that the solution to both piracy and terrorism is state building in Somalia,” she said. “But despite a lot of lip service being paid to that kind of policy, what we have now instead is first the US and now the EU pursuing a policy of diplomacy by airstrike.” 

And for the US, the focus remains on fighting terrorism. “Piracy is a distinctly second-order priority in Somalia for the US” Ms. Bruton says.

“There are very, very few US-flagged vessels passing Somalia. Simply by a factor of the geography, Europe has a great deal more at stake there.” 

A US official in Nairobi, speaking on condition of anonymity, denied that Washington prioritized combatting terror over combatting piracy. “Somalia is a country with myriad difficulties,” the official said. “We examine each issue according to its place within a holistic whole, and try to shape policies accordingly.” 

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