Operation Allied Provider
Operation Allied Provider, conducted between October and December 2008, was responsible for NATO naval escorts to World Food Program (WFP) vessels and, more generally, patrolled the waters around Somalia. NATO alliance presence also helped to deter acts of piracy that threatened the region. While providing close protection for WFP vessels and patrolling routes most susceptible to criminal acts against merchant vessels, NATO ships were authorized to use force pursuant to the Rules of Engagement and in compliance with relevant international and national law.
The piracy threat off the coast of Somalia was a persistent security concern threatening the safe delivery of humanitarian assistance to millions of people in need. The number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in Somalia had increased by 2007-2008 to nearly 3.2 million people, representing some 43 percent of the Somali population. Rates of child Global Acute Malnutrition in most of south and central Somalia ranged from 15 to 20 per cent in many areas. For many vulnerable Somalis the only hope for survival was through food aid provided by the WFP.
In response to the threat, France, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Canada had offered naval escorts that allowed food aid to reach Somalia. From November 2007 when the naval escort started, to September 2008, a total of 27 vessels delivered some 18,617 metric tons of food aid. According to WFP, the naval escorts proved to be an effective deterrent against pirates. Ninety percent of WFP food aid arrived in Somalia by sea. WFP planned to double the amount of food it delivered in Somalia to increase the number of people it feeds from 2 million to a monthly average of 2.4 million by December 2008.
Allied Provider was a temporary operation that was requested by then Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon on 25 September 2008. NATO provided counter-piracy capacity in support of UN Security Council Resolutions 1814, 1816, and 1838, and in coordination with other international actors, including the European Union.
NATO defence ministers agreed to respond positively to the UN's request on 9 October 2008, during an informal meeting held in Budapest, Hungary. Following this decision, planning started to redirect assets of Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2) to conduct anti-piracy duties. SNMG2 was already scheduled to conduct a series of Gulf port visits in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates within the framework of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative. As such, it started to transit the Suez Canal on 15 October 2008 to conduct both duties at the same time. At that time, SNMG2 comprised 7 ships from Germany, Greece, Italy, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States, of which 3 were assigned to Operation Allied Provider: ITS Durand de la Penne (the task force's flagship), HS Temistokles, and HMS Cumberland. The other 4 ships (FGS Karlsruhe and FGS Rhön from Germany; TCG Gokova from Turkey; and USS The Sullivans from the USA) continued deployment to Istanbul Cooperation Initiative countries. This was the first time a NATO-flagged force had deployed to the Gulf.
Subsequently European Union Foreign Ministers made a decision to set up a coordination unit tasked with supporting the surveillance and protection activities carried out by some European Union Member States off the Somali coast was a welcome development. However, since the establishment of regular and predictable naval escorts by the EU NAVFOR for ships carrying humanitarian supplies to Somalia will take some time, NATO was ready and has the capabilities to respond to this request. The European Union subsequently commenced Operation Atalanta, a separate counter-piracy operation. Operation Allied Provider subsequently ended, though NATO conducted additional counter-piracy operations first as part of Operation Allied Protector between March and August 2009, and then as part of Operation Ocean Shield, beginning in November 2011.
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