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NATO US Navy Commander Speaks Exclusively To S/land Times
Hargeysa, September 22, 2007 (SL Times) – Somaliland Times conducted on Friday night a telephone interview with the commander of NATO's Standing Maritime Group 1 (SNMG1), U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Michael K. Mahon, who recently embarked with a force of NATO ships which set sail on 30 July 2007 to make an historic 12,500 nautical mile circumnavigation of the African continent on a two month deployment from August to October this year as part of NATO’s commitment to global security.
The commander of SNMG1, U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Michael K. Mahon, talked to SL Times from on board the flag ship of the NATO multinational force, the USS Bainbridge sailing off the coast of Somalia in the Indian Ocean.
The multinational force comprising one cruiser, four frigates and a tanker from six different NATO nations, USA, Canada, Holland, Germany, Denmark and Portugal are on the last leg of their tour of the African continent and will be spending under two weeks deployed around the Horn conducting ‘presence operations’ and the red sea, finally heading to the Suez.
Interview with Rear Admiral Michael K Mahon
Sl Times: Rear Admiral Michael K Mahon, thank you for giving us this opportunity to talk to you.
Admiral Mahon: It’s a pleasure to talk to you.
Sl Times: Sir, where are you speaking from at present, and where about is your fleet sailing in the Indian Ocean?
Admiral Mahon: I am talking to you from on deck the flag ship of the ‘Standing NATO Maritime Group 1’ (SNMG1), the USS Bainbridge, and we are somewhere off the Somali coast in international waters, though I cannot explicitly say, but somewhere between the southern portion off the Somali coast in the Indian Ocean.
Sl Times: How far will you be from the Somali coast?
Admiral Mahon: I cannot say, but what I can say is that we are in international waters off the Somali coast.
Sl Times: How long will you be in this particular area?
Admiral Mahon: We will be present in the Indian Ocean for the next coming 10 days and will set sail for the Gulf of Aden from thereon to maintain a ‘presence operations’ in the Red Sea and then sail through the Suez Canal back into the Mediterranean.
Sl Times: What exactly will you be doing off the Somali coast?
Admiral Mahon: Our naval force will be conducting surveillance and ‘presence operations’ off the Somali coast in international waters. What this basically means is monitoring what is going on in these waters and compiling a picture of the movement of vessels, shipping patterns and activities over this period of time. Also, at this crucial point in time, where there is a humanitarian crisis in Somalia there is a great need to secure the Somali coast of piracy, since there are grave concerns for the safety of shipping carrying aid to Somalia as a result of acts of piracy occurring in these waters on regular basis. And, as you are aware of this, the threat of piracy is real in these waters and life threatening for millions of Somalis dependent on humanitarian aid. The presence of our vessels will deter any criminal maritime activities being carried out and attacks of piracy on ships carrying humanitarian aid, as well as on merchant vessels.
Sl Times: So you are out there, basically, to catch Somali pirates?
Admiral Mahon: No. On the contrary, we are not. As I said, purely, we have a ‘presence operations’ and that is all.
Sl Times: If you happen to come across ‘Somali pirates’ on the verge of hijacking a ship carrying humanitarian aid or commercial goods, what will you do?
Admiral Mahon: We will act according to the international maritime laws and conventions which directs all states and countries the legal obligation to counter piracy and gives any war vessel of any state on government service the right of seizure and arrest of persons and vessels carrying out piracy or criminal activities on the high seas. We are legally obliged to act according to the international laws and conventions relating to pirates and piracy.
Sl Times: Will your vessels be traversing into Somali territorial waters?
Admiral Mahon: No, we have no intention of our vessels sailing or entering into Somali territorial waters. Unless, otherwise, that is we are formally invited by the host government.
Sl Times: If you receive a formal invitation from the current government in Somalia, will you sail into Somali territorial waters?
Admiral Mahon: I take your question as being political in tone; I have to say, no, we will have to wait from Brussels to get the go ahead for this.
Sl Times: Will you make any contact or correspondence with the governments in Somalia and Somaliland while you are sailing off the Somali coast?
Admiral Mahon: No, we cannot have direct contact with any government without Brussels acknowledgement.
Sl Times: I take you will not be calling on the port of Berbera in the Gulf of Aden?
Admiral Mahon: No, Sir.
Sl Times: Will you be calling on Djibouti?
Admiral Mahon: No, we will not be visiting port of Djibouti.
Sl Times: Is this a one-time thing with the NATO task force circumventing the African coastline or are we going to see more of this?
Admiral Mahon: No, this is not a one-time thing by the multinational forces of NATO. NATO has made a commitment to global security and closer collaboration with African countries. Forging closer maritime links with African countries is our top priority at NATO, which will further help to build greater maritime awareness to global security.
Sl Times: Rear Admiral, It’s been a pleasure talking to you, thank you for taking the time to talk to us.
Admiral Mahon: Thank you.
Naval history: Rear Admiral Michael K Mahon (click link)
The NATO press release on the African deployment says, “ the deployed multinational force will improve the Alliance’s ability to plan and conduct operations far from home territory. The deployment will also test NATO’s logistics support systems, foster closer links with some of the region’s maritime forces, and increase knowledge of the African littoral….. The deployment will also test NATO’s logistic support systems and foster closer links with regional navies and other maritime organizations……The Africa 2007 deployment will include conducting ‘presence operations’ in the Gulf of Guinea, a region that has seen many incidents in recent months of attacks on oil installations in the Niger Delta and kidnapping of oil workers. During this phase the NATO force will be in a position to make a difference to security in the region, deterring criminal groups and enabling NATO maritime commanders to compile a picture of maritime activity in the area . ”
Source: Somaliland Times