NATO is sponsoring a five-day conference in Tunisia as a summit for North African nations to discuss anti-piracy operations in the Mediterranean. The focus of the conference is on establishing an intelligence-sharing aparatus to help keep track of pirates.
The conference, involving Nigeria, Morocco and Algeria, will also host 70 delegates from other NATO nations and partners. Given the technological constraints of the states in North Africa, the proposed network would focus more on Human Intelligence (HUMINT) rather than electronic or satellite surveillance.
Although involving the latter would definitely augment efforts, it will be interesting to see the development of a network focused on HUMINT. When facing such a shadowy, decentralized threat such as piracy, sometimes the bottom-up approach is best. The goal is to allow hand-to-hand intelligence gathering to ferret out different pirate networks of varying size and capabilities.
A special focus will be paid to developing capabilities for satisfactory crisis management and response. At the conclusion of the conference, relevant parties hope to be well-versed and cooperative in setting up joint training exercises to prepare local maritime authorities.
While North Africa hasn’t currently been a hotbed of piracy, it has been in the past. While piracy in East Africa is grabbing headlines, the epidemic is spreading to West Africa and Southeast Asia as well. As political and economic situations in North Africa are afar from stable, the fear is that such conditions will encourage citizens of those nations to succumb to the call of the black market.
A surge of Radical Islam has contributed to generally lawless conditions in these countries, and most importantly, al-Qaeda affiliates and local terror groups are always in need of materiel, which pirates could easily provide if the circumstances warrant.
Global powers such as the United States are applauding the North African initiative, as preventing piracy is far more effective than trying to cure an epidemic when it’s already in full swing.