Tag Archives: West Africa

Crafting a Counter-Piracy Regime in the Gulf of Guinea

The winds of global piracy have shifted, as attacks by West African pirates now exceed those of their Somali counterparts. The Nigeria-based pirates may not yet inspire Hollywood films, but they have prompted regional governments to take collective action. A June 24-25 summit in Yaounde, Cameroon brought representatives from the Economic Community of West African States, the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and the Gulf of Guinea Commission together to draft a Code of Conduct concerning the prevention of piracy, armed robbery against ships and illicit maritime activity; now signed by 22 states.

The Gulf of Guinea’s problem is not a dramatic rise in the number of attacks, but the expansion of a criminal enterprise once restricted to Nigerian waters into those of neighboring states. While support vessels operating near Nigeria’s oil fields have been pirate targets for decades, the hijacking and full-scale pilfering of oil tankers is a recent development. This modus operandi first appeared off Benin in December 2010 and has spread to the waters of Togo and Côte d’Ivoire in subsequent years. According to Risk Intelligence data, there were at least 93 tanker attacks in the Gulf of Guinea between December 2010 and May 2013, resulting in some 30 hijackings.

2013 Pirate Attacks in the Gulf of Guinea (IMB)
2013 Pirate Attacks in the Gulf of Guinea (IMB)

Tanker traffic is particularly dense in the Gulf of Guinea because Nigeria, the region’s largest oil producer, lacks the capacity to refine its own product. Crude oil is thus transported out of Nigeria, refined elsewhere, and then imported back into the country where it is sold at below market rates thanks to a government fuel subsidy. Nigerian criminal syndicates, backed by high-level political and economic patrons, are exploiting this situation by targeting specific tankers for hijacking, offloading their cargo to secondary vessels and then selling the product on the lucrative black market.

A conference of regional experts, held in preparation for the Cameroon summit, estimates that maritime crime is now bleeding the Gulf of Guinea’s states some $2-billion a year in lost port revenue, insurance premiums and security costs. West Africa has now reached a tipping point, like East Africa and South East Asia before it, where the geographic expansion of pirate activity demands a coordinated response. An examination of previous regional efforts to combat piracy thus serves as both a guide and warning for the Gulf of Guinea’s new endeavor.

Regional Counter-Piracy in Context

As a response to increased pirate attacks in the wake of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, 16 states drafted the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) in 2004, which came into effect 2006. The organization is credited with reversing the spike in piracy that coincided with the 2009 global economic downturn, as attacks against ships in the region have steadily fallen from 2010 to 2013. Notable in this success was the establishment in Singapore of an Information Sharing Center (ISC) that facilitates the collection, analysis and dissemination of piracy information among member states.

ReCAAP obligates its members to take legal measures against vessels and individuals who commit acts or robbery or piracy; to extradite such individuals at the request of another state; and to render mutual legal assistance in such cases. Donations from member states fund ReCAAP’s central budget – Singapore and Japan being the largest donors – with additional support coming from out-of-area signatories such as Norway and the Netherlands.

Concerns over state sovereignty have prevented closer cooperation with ReCAAP, as equipment procurement and counter-piracy patrols remain the responsibility of individual states, and national security forces are unable to pursue suspected pirates across maritime boundaries. ReCAAP is also hampered by the unwillingness of Malaysia and Indonesia—the two most pirate-prone states in the region—to ratify the agreement.

As Somali piracy rapidly expanded in the late 2000s, the international community hoped to replicate the success of ReCAAP through a counter-piracy agreement encompassing Eastern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Steered by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the Djibouti Code of Conduct (DCoC) was adopted by nine states in January 2009 and has since expanded to 20 signatories spanning from Jordan to South Africa.

An independent study notes that the DCoC has made significant progress in information sharing, legal reform, and the training of coastguards. At least twelve member states have introduced legal changes to cover the crime of piracy. These developments have been credited for the higher percentage of arrested pirates now being tried and prosecuted in regional courts. The DCoC’s projects are largely financed by an IMO-managed trust fund of some $14-million, funded by maritime states such as Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, and South Korea.

Heading Back West

Influenced by these previous agreements, the Gulf of Guinea’s new Code of Conduct calls on signatories to: share and report relevant information; interdict vessels suspected of engaging in illegal activities; ensure those committing such acts are apprehended and prosecuted; and facilitate the care and repatriation of seafarers subject to illegal activity.

As was done in Singapore, the West and Central African leaders aim to build a regional maritime security center, based in Cameroon, which will facilitate information sharing among governments. The center, it is hoped, will address the massive underreporting of pirate attacks that occurs in the Gulf of Guinea and improve regional maritime domain awareness. However, the examination of previous efforts reveals that regional competition and suspicion are likely to hamper this process. Malaysia refused to join ReCAAP because it viewed the ISC in Singapore as a duplicative competitor to the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Center based in Kuala Lumpur. Similarly, disagreements within the DCoC resulted in the establishment of three separate information sharing centers in Yemen, Kenya and Tanzania.

PMSCs have helped curb piracy off Somalia, but they are not allowed in the Gulf of Guinea
PMSCs have helped curb piracy off Somalia, but they are not allowed in the Gulf of Guinea

Absent from West Africa’s new agreement was any mention of the counter-piracy role that Private Maritime Security Companies (PMSCs) might play in the Gulf of Guinea. Foreign armed guards are not allowed in the territorial waters of local nations, forcing transiting vessels to hire military personnel from regional states and embark and disembark them along route. Several PMSCs were confident that the new agreement would allow them to operate inside the territorial waters of West African states, but concerns over state sovereignty and vested interests in the current system likely prevented such an arrangement from materializing.

Nor are international naval operations likely to be the panacea to West African piracy. At the summit, Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara called on the international community “to show the same firmness in the Gulf of Guinea as displayed in the Gulf of Aden, where the presence of international naval forces has helped to drastically reduce acts of piracy.” However, NATO and the EU have already begun to drawdown assets from their Horn of Africa operations, set to terminate at the end of 2014, and there does not appear to be the political will for cross-continental redeployment. Furthermore, while almost all Somali pirate attacks occur on the high seas, the vast majority of attacks in the Gulf of Guinea take place in territorial waters, primarily those of Nigeria. This serves to render foreign naval vessels both unwelcome, due to local concerns for state sovereignty, and ineffective, as they are unable to operate so close to the shore.

Live Together, Die Alone

The absence of PMSCs and international naval operations means that a counter-piracy regime for the Gulf of Guinea will have to be local and regionally owned. This is a desirable and more sustainable course of action, but it means that the new Code of Conduct must contend with the low level of maritime security capacity that permeates across the region. Nigeria is the only state in the region that possesses a frigate, corvette, or aerial surveillance capacity. However, only an estimated 28% of Abuja’s navy is operational at any given time, meaning that maritime operations usually amount to intermittent sweeps, rather than a continuous patrol presence. The other littoral nations’ “navies” are more accurately described as coastguards. Taken together, West and Central African states are estimated to have fewer than 25 large security vessels available for interdiction efforts. In terms of force multiplying, Nigeria has engaged in joint patrols with Benin since 2011, but there was little indication in the new agreement that other states will join these operations.

Togo's tiny navy is now on the front line in fight against piracy
Togo’s tiny navy is now on the front line in fight against piracy

As was the case with the DCoC, the IMO has established a trust fund for the Gulf of Guinea that will allow donor states to offset capacity building costs, and it is advisable that the U.S, EU, Japan and others use this as a common channel to coordinate their existing security efforts in the region. Not limiting itself to carrots, the U.S is also trying to exert pressure on Nigeria by issuing a 90-day ultimatum (set to expire at the end of August) to improve port security or face the diversion of U.S-flagged shipping.

While piracy is now a regional issue for the Gulf of Guinea, this ultimatum highlights the fact that the drivers of the crime and its ultimate solution both lay in Nigeria. The country’s fuel subsidies and the lack of local refining capacity are at the root of West Africa’s petroleum black market, and endemic corruption has protected the economic and political elites suspected of profiting from it. Inequality and local grievances in the Niger Delta have been only superficially addressed by payments from a government amnesty program, leaving a massive pool of unemployed young men who see piracy and oil theft as their ticket out of poverty.

Off the coast of Somalia, international naval operations, regional agreements and private armed guards have helped to suppress and contain piracy. In the Gulf of Guinea, enhanced regional cooperation – through information sharing, capacity building, and joint patrols – should serve to roll back the geographical expansion of Nigeria’s pirate gangs. In both cases however, a permanent solution rests within the state that gave rise to regional piracy. Closer maritime coordination in the Gulf of Guinea is a welcome development, but the road to secure marine environment will ultimately have to run through Nigeria.

James Bridger is a maritime security consultant and piracy specialist at Delex Systems Inc. He can be reached at jbridger@delex.com

West Africa: An Ounce of Prevention

AMLEP in action: A joint U.S. and Sierra Leone law enforcement boarding team talk with the crew of a cargo ship.
AMLEP in action: A joint U.S. and Sierra Leone law enforcement boarding team talk with the crew of a cargo ship.

After a series of high-profile stand-offs with Somali pirates, the international community has directed a great deal of resources toward securing the Gulf of Aden. But with an increase in piracy and other criminal activities in the Niger Delta and the Gulf of Guinea, some of which may be linked to terrorist networks, what role can the Atlantic community play in securing the coasts of West Africa?

On the one hand, the United States and European partners are making an important contribution in terms of equipment. In particular, vessels provided through the U.S. military’s Excess Defense Articles system have bolstered the capabilities of naval forces in the region. A recent example is the acquisition by the Nigerian Navy of a former U.S. Navy survey ship and a U.S. Coast Guard cutter, due to be delivered by early 2014. These donated vessels will go a long way to boosting capabilities, especially as at this time the Nigerian Navy is largely dependent on Seaward Defense Boats commissioned from the Indian shipyard Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers. The Indian Navy itself has decommissioned its own complement of Seaward Defense Boats because these vessels generate a disproportionately large maintenance overhead – the materials and method of construction leave the patrol craft with very low corrosion tolerance.

More than vessels and equipment, however, the naval forces of West African countries require training assistance. In this area, some training and joint exercises are being conducted by NATO and EU member states, but much of this is carried out on a bilateral, case-by-case basis. In April 2013, French and American military advisors provided training to Liberian Coast Guard personnel, including such topics as non-compliant vessel boarding, search and seizure tactics, weapons familiarization, and hull sweeps for mines and smuggling compartments. All of this mentorship and training was limited to a four-day port visit by a French frigate to Monrovia, the Liberian capital.

Other training opportunities take place intermittently. U.S. Naval Forces Africa (NAVAF) has introduced the Africa Partnership Station (APS) program, through which U.S. Navy and Coast Guard crews carry out mentoring initiatives similar to the Monrovia visit described above. The Africa Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership (AMLEP) sees personnel from the U.S. Coast Guard and relevant African institutions operating alongside one another for a slightly more sustained duration. Under this latter program, a U.S. Navy or Coast Guard vessel patrols the territorial waters of the African host country, carrying both an American boarding party and a boarding party from the host country, enhancing that country’s counter-piracy capabilities while also exposing the partner country’s personnel to U.S. Coast Guard best practices.

Although AMLEP benefits from a greater duration and depth of interaction, the exchanges are still too brief to develop naval forces that can operate independently in West Africa. More must be done in this area in order to avoid a scenario in which piracy interferes with shipping in the Gulf of Guinea to such an extent that NATO and its partners must field an intervention of the same scale and extent as Operation Ocean Shield, which continues to this day in the Gulf of Aden. To reduce reliance on Ocean Shield, the European Union has since 2012 mounted an ambitious training assistance mission, known as EUCAP NESTOR, with the objective of providing consistent and intensive training assistance to the maritime forces of such countries as Somalia, Djibouti, and Kenya. The mission has 45 full-time staff members working in the countries – primarily Djibouti – and a planned capacity of 137. Begun with a mandate of two years, EUCAP NESTOR could be renewed until these East African states are able to take charge of policing the Gulf of Aden, replacing Ocean Shield.

Whereas EUCAP NESTOR was introduced in East Africa as a response to a full-blown crisis of pirate activity, a similar mission could be launched in West Africa as a preventative measure. The lessons that could be provided and the connections that could be forged in a two-year mandate would likely surpass what can be achieved in a four-day port visit. Whether such a training mission would be better carried out under the auspices of the EU or NATO is a matter of political debate. From a practical standpoint, however, committing resources to the sustained development of the Nigerian Navy, the Liberian Coast Guard, and other regional partners would be more cost-effective than the eventual alternative: the deployment of an Ocean Shield-style mission to the Gulf of Guinea.

Paul Pryce is a Junior Research Fellow at the Atlantic Council of Canada. Having previously worked with the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, he has an active interest in both ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ security issues.

Pirate Horizons in the Gulf of Guinea

This article is the second installment of a three part series on the evolution of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. The initial background piece can be found here, while an appraisal of counter-piracy strategies and initiatives will appear next month.

Pirate incidents in the Gulf of Guinea (courtesy OceansUSLIVE)
                  2012 Pirate incidents in the Gulf of Guinea (courtesy OCEANUSLive)

It was proclaimed in 2012 that the Somali pirate business model had been broken by a combination of coordinated naval patrols, heightened vessel security, and the ubiquitous presence of armed guards aboard valuable ships. The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) attributed only 71 attacks to Somali pirates in the first 11 months of 2012, down from 237 the previous year. However, attacks are on the rise across the continent in the Gulf of Guinea, with 51 incidents recorded for the same period.

While several commentators, particularly within the shipping industry, have raised the alarm that the Gulf of Guinea will overtake the Horn of Africa as the world’s piracy hotspot, very distinct geopolitical conditions prevent the Somali business model from being easily transported to West Africa. To begin with, it is the abject failure of onshore authority in Somalia’s pirate-prone regions that allows the hijackers to keep their prey anchored for months at a time while they conduct ransom negations. By contrast, the states bordering the Gulf of Guinea are weak and corrupt, but not failed.

West African pirates may not yet be able to secure multi-million dollar ransoms, but they have begun to emulate many of the successful tactics of their Somali counterparts. An analysis of recent trends demonstrates that the region’s highly organized pirate gangs have altered their tactics, targets and hunting grounds in order to counteract efforts against them.

Geographic Displacement

A 2009 government amnesty offering to militants in the Niger Delta is credited for temporarily reducing Nigerian piracy, as the number of incidents reported fell from a high of 42 in 2007 to a low of 10 in 2011. These figures masked the full extent of the piracy problem, however, as it is estimated that 50-80% of pirate attacks go unreported in West Africa. While the IMB reported 40 incidents of piracy in Nigerian waters in 2008, an author’s interviews with corporate security managers working in the region found there to be 173 confirmed attacks that year.

While Nigerian waters were relatively calm in 2011, neighboring Benin—which had only reported one act of piracy in the previous five years—was suddenly struck with a spree of at least 20 attacks. The Nigeria-based criminal syndicates, pressured by heighted security in their own waters, had moved westward to find easier targets. Highlighting the vulnerability of vessels operating in the thought-to-be-safe waters of Benin, eight of the 20 vessels attacked were successfully hijacked and had large quantities of equipment, fuel or cargo stolen.

As a response to the shared threat they face, the maritime forces of Nigeria and Benin began engaging in joint naval patrols in late 2011. Predictably, incidences of piracy declined in Beninois waters but were soon to reemerge elsewhere.

Though it has only 34 miles of coastline, West Africa’s 2012 piracy hotspot was Togo. The IMB recorded 15 pirate attacks in Togolese waters last year, more incidents than in the past five years combined. Other regional states that have seen a sharp increase in piracy include Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, the latter marking the furthest point west that the Nigeria-based criminals have expanded.

Despite an increase in naval patrols, attacks have also increased once again in Nigerian waters. The fight against piracy in the region was recently likened to sitting on a balloon—“push down on one side and pops up at the other; push on the other side and it pops up somewhere else.”

According to maritime risk consultant Michael Frodl, the pirates are moving further out to sea not just to avoid coastal patrols, “but also to take advantage of ships letting down their guard in waters assumed to be safer.” The majority of ships attacked off Benin and Togo in recent years have been at anchor or drifting, meaning that evasive maneuvers cannot be taken.

The limited range of the pirates’ small skiffs once acted as a check on their offshore expansion. Following the Somali model however, West African pirates have overcome this limitation by using motherships—converted fishing trawlers that allow supplies and multiple skiffs to be transported further afield for more extended piracy ventures. Attacks have now been launched against vessels that are over 120nm from the coast.

A Change in Tactics and Targets

Though Niger Delta-based insurgents were able to launch a number of concerted attacks against offshore oil infrastructure in the mid to late 2000s, the majority of maritime crime in the region has been a low-tech and opportunistic affair. This appears to have changed in the last two years, however, as a number of notable attacks reveal a high level of sophistication and operational capacity on the part of the criminal gangs.

The pirates that hijacked the Abu Dhabi Star off the coast of Lagos in September demonstrated military-like organization, as they swarmed the vessel with four high-powered speed boats, boarded with a dozen heavily armed men in full combat dress, and immediately disabled the captured ship’s communications equipment. Signifying advanced logistical capabilities, the MT Orfeas was recently hijacked from anchorage off Côte d’Ivoire and then sailed 600nm back to the waters of Nigeria where its captors pilfered 3,000 tons of gasoline. The kidnapping of crew members from the tug Bourbon Liberty appears to exhibit a heightened level of operational intelligence, as the ship was attacked at the precise moment when its escort vessel had returned to shore to resupply.

These attacks are by no means atypical, as a 2011 UN assessment mission concluded that the region’s pirates were “resorting to sophisticated modes of operations and utilizing heavy weapons.”

Diversifying the Business Model

Though cargo theft remains the primary modus operandi of the Gulf of Guinea’s pirates, there has been a sharp rise in incidents of hostage taking during oil bunkerings. Early 2012 witnessed a doubling in the number of attacks on oil tankers, with periods of captivity often lasting days as vessels are directed to another pirate-controlled ship where the fuel is transferred and then taken elsewhere for sale. While these extended duration robberies were once rare events in the region, there have been almost 20 such hijackings recorded in the last two years.

Bunkering has become part of a larger international web as Lebanese and Eastern European criminal interests reportedly arrange the black market sale of stolen crude and refined cargos. Shipping industry guidelines have also recognized that recent attacks appear to be the result of “intelligence-led planning,” where ships transporting valuable products such as gasoline are “targeted in very well coordinated and executed operations.” In this sense, Nigerian gangs are better connected to global criminal networks than their Somali counterparts, as first hand research has largely dismissed earlier reports that Somalia’s pirates were being financed and fed vessel intelligence by international cartels.

The increase in large scale bunkering has coincided with a brazen string of kidnappings for ransom in the Nigerian littoral. Though whole ships cannot be held for Somali-style ransom, West African gangs have proven apt at kidnapping foreign personnel as a source of additional income. When the Bourbon Liberty was hijacked off Nigeria in October seven European sailors were taken hostage while the Nigerian crew members and the ship itself were left to drift. The vessel’s French owners secured their employees release two weeks later through an alleged ransom payment.

Shipping and oil companies attempt to keep ransom negotiations confidential so as to not encourage further kidnappings, but the crime continues to be a lucrative venture. December witnessed three separate maritime kidnappings off the Nigerian coast in which a total of 12 expatriate personnel were specifically targeted and taken hostage. Examined together, rising incidences of both extended duration bunkerings and kidnap for ransom indicate that the myriad criminal syndicates operating in the Gulf of Guinea have developed diversified business models.

Constant Vigilance

Maritime crime is now a transnational emergency in the Gulf of Guinea. Already spreading from Nigeria to Benin, Togo, and Côte d’Ivoire, it is likely that Liberia, Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea will come under increased stress from pirates and oil thieves this year. Though the crisis is regional, the inter-governmental response has been limited to joint patrols between Nigeria and Benin and a series of security meetings that include other states.

A central problem is lack of maritime security capacity in the region. Nigeria is the only state that possesses a frigate, corvette or aerial surveillance capabilities, but it has thus far found it difficult to bring these assets to bear in a coordinated manner for a sustained length of time. Private security providers are similarly hampered by the fact that national law prevents them from deploying armed guards aboard ships operating in the territorial waters of regional states.

It is imperative that regional states, the international community and private actors adopt a more proactive and coordinated approach to combating maritime crime in the Gulf of Guinea. So long as maritime security provision remains piecemeal and nationally orientated, the robbers will remain one step ahead of the cops.

James Bridger is a Maritime Security Consultant and piracy specialist at Delex Systems Inc. He can be reached at jbridger@delex.com

An International Response to Maritime Insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea

A Movement for the Emapncipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) Fighter
A fighter from the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND).

The International Crisis Group (ICG) recently released a report* on maritime security challenges in the Gulf of Guinea.  As usual from ICG, the analysis is excellent and informative, with reasonable policy recommendations to address the problems associated with increasing security challenges afloat (piracy, oil theft, smuggling, illegal fishing) in the region.  Unfortunately, there is little chance that the proposed courses of action will be pursued or efforts by regional states or organizations will be up to addressing these challenges.

What ICG calls “piracy” (beyond the traditional legal scope)  is increasing…42 attacks, 168 hostages kidnapped, and 4 deaths between January and September of 2012.  What had been primarily a problem in Nigeria’s Niger Delta has expanded, with attacks or raids in neighboring Benin, Togo, Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Cameroon, and Equatorial Guinea since 2009.  In an accompanying Op-ed at Foreign Policy, ICG’s Thierry Vircoulon argues that maritime security in West Africa is important, both to the states in the region that want to benefit by tapping into their national resources, and the rest of the world that increasingly depends on oil from the region (40% of Europe’s oil is imported from the Gulf of Guinea, and 29% of the U.S.’s).

The ICG’s first recommendation is to improve the economy in the coastal regions of the Gulf, thereby diminishing the need for locals to pursue illicit activities afloat as a livelihood. Unfortunately, precedents for Nigerian economic policies in the Niger Delta do not make it seem likely that countries in the region will begin to “boost job creation along the coast, in particular by protecting artisanal fishing, stimulating the local fish-processing industry, providing professional training for vulnerable sectors of the population” any time soon.

The second set of recommendations entail improved maritime security forces for the region.  Once again, this is a laudable goal, but it’s unclear who would pay for expanded and better-trained navies and coast guards for at least half-a-dozen African states.  Even factoring in potential aid from the U.S., Europe, or China it’s not clear how a “donated” navy would be able to be enough of an effective deterrent against local pirates and criminals.

The third set of recommendations revolve around establishing bilateral and regional frameworks for combined afloat operations.  Whether in the context of ECCAS (Economic Community of Central African States) and ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States), combined patrols between states such as Nigeria and neighbors such as Benin and Cameroon, or improved intelligence sharing relationships, these types of operations would be essential to stopping the current insecurity.

There are numerous challenges to implementing this sort of regional cooperation. however.  First, “maritime cooperation is still in its infancy and is hampered by political tensions and distrust of neighbouring states toward Nigeria.”  Nigeria and Benin have begun to cooperate and conduct combined patrols, with Operation Prosperity starting in 2011.  However, Benin has virtually no Navy, Coast Guard, or maritime security force.  According to Janes, Benin’s Navy consists of three patrol craft, but one vessel dates from the late 1980s and isn’t believed to be operational, and the current status of the other two donated by China in 2000 is unclear.  Thus Nigeria bears the brunt of responsibility for patrolling Benin’s waters, which is good in the sense that they now have the authority to pursue criminals operating there, but bad in the sense that they have in the past shown limited ability to control illicit actors in their own waters, let alone next door.

The shortcomings of these proposed solutions point to one of the biggest problems with addressing maritime security challenges in West Africa as “piracy,” in that much of this criminal activity isn’t piracy at all.  Much occurs within the various states’ territorial waters, while under the traditional definition per international law, piracy occurs in international waters.  In these instances, the problem is one of criminals based in one state traveling to the territorial waters of a neighboring country to commit crimes afloat.  The difficulty isn’t that these acts occur on the high seas where no one has jurisdiction, but rather, because they happen in someone else’s jurisdiction.  A partnership where Nigerian criminals on the water can be pursued by effective maritime security forces across borders is essential, but seems unlikely unless an international sense of urgency increases.

Lieutenant Commander Mark Munson is a Naval Intelligence officer currently serving on the OPNAV staff.  He has previously served at Naval Special Warfare Group FOUR, the Office of Naval Intelligence, and onboard USS Essex (LHD 2).  The views expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the official viewpoints or policies of the Department of Defense or the US Government.

*Although this link is a summary, the actual full report is in French, the promised English version has yet to be published

* UPDATE: ICG has posted the English translation of the full report.