On the night of 14-15 May 2012, EU forces participating in Operation Atalanta conducted their first raid on pirate bases in Somalia. The attack on pirate enclaves near the Somali town of Haradhere was targeted at destroying boats, fuel, and weaponry and no Somalis were reported to have been killed or injured during the raid. The raid was conducted by EU ground forces supported by helicopters and warships with the full support of the Somali government. The Somali government did express concern about potential civilian casualties and also a desire to tackle root causes that lead to piracy.
Operation Atalanta, is the response by the European Union to concerns with the continuing impact of piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia on international maritime security and on the economic activities and security of countries in the region. Operation Atalanta is conducted within the framework of the European Common Security and Defence Policy and in accordance with relevant UN Security Council Resolutions and International Law. By UN Security Council mandate, elements of EU NAVFOR (EU NAVFOR Somalia) perform the following missions as part of Operation Atalanta: the protection of vessels of the World Food Programme (WFP) delivering food aid to displaced persons in Somalia; the protection of African Union Mission on Somalia (AMISOM) shipping; the deterrence, prevention and repression of acts of piracy and armed robbery off the Somali coast; and the protection of vulnerable shipping off the Somali coast on a case by case basis. In addition, EU NAVFOR elements also contribute to the monitoring of fishing activities off the coast of Somalia and after 23 March 2012, are authorized to conduct operations in support of their mission in Somali coastal territory and internal waters.
The force assigned to Operation Atalanta fluctuates according to the monsoon seasons, which have significant impact on the level of piracy. EU NAVFOR Somalia typically consists of 4 to 7 surface combat vessels, 1 to 2 auxiliary ship and 2 to 4 MPRAs. Including land-based personnel, EU NAVFOR consists of around 1,500 military personnel.
Operation Atalanta covers a mission area covering an area from the south of the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and the Western part of the Indian Ocean, including the Seychelles. After 23 March 2012, the area of operation also included Somali coastal territory, as well as its territorial and internal waters. This represents an area of 2,000,000 square nautical miles (almost 4,000,000 square kilometres). In response to the geographical range in which pirates operate and changing pirate tactics, the European Union expanded the Area of Operations for EU NAVFOR and adapted counter-piracy tactics.
The Operation Alatanta commander commands the operation from the Operational Headquarters at Northwood, United Kingdom. There he plans and conducts the operation in conjunction with the political and military authorities of the European Union. The subordinate Force Commander exercises command and control of all military forces in the Joint Operation Area. He is responsible for planning, orchestration and execution of military activities.
The European Union's Political and Security Committee exercises the political control and strategic direction of the European Union military operation, under the responsibility of the Council of the European Union. The Operation Atlanta commander reports directly to the Political and Security Committee. The European Union Military Committee monitors the proper execution of the operation conducted under the responsibility of the Operation's commander. The chairman of the European Union Military Committee acts as the primary point of contact with the Operation's commander. The European Union Military Staff is a part of the European External Action Service and provides in-house military expertise for the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and performs early warning; strategic planning; and situation assessment in support of Operation Atalanta.
Operation Atalanta was part of the global action conducted by the European Union in the Horn of Africa to deal with the Somali crisis, which has political, security and humanitarian aspects. This action also included the EU Training Mission - Somalia, based in Uganda and and support to the African Union's military mission to Somalia, AMISOM. The European Union's objective in Somalia was to contribute to the establishment of a peaceful, stable and democratic country, trigger sustainable development and eradicate the root causes of piracy.
Participation in Operation Atlanata went beyond European Union member states. Norway was the first non-EU country to contribute to the operation with one warship in 2009. Croatia and Ukraine also provided staff officers to the Operational Headquarters at Northwood, United Kingdom. Additionally, Montenegro offered to contribute and a subsequent Participation Agreement was concluded to this effect, allowing the contribution of naval officers.
On 23 March 2012, the Council of the European Union confirmed its intention to extend the EU Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) counter-piracy mission, Operation Atalanta, off the Somali coast until December 2014. At the same time the Council also extended the area of operations to include Somali coastal territory and internal waters.
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