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As rampant piracy continues to plague the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia, and Islamic insurgents foment violence and instability inside the country, the European Union is hoping to bolster the failed state by providing it with military training.
The mission still needs approval, but as early as the first half of 2010, the EU could send 100 troops to Uganda to train some 2,000 Somali forces that are part of the weak UN-backed government in Somalia. The effort would raise the number of adequately trained troops in the lawless state to up to 6,000 and possibly enable it to better combat the pirates and insurgents that have hindered Somalia's growth for decades.
The mission is particularly significant for Spain, which just Tuesday saw the release of the Spanish ship the Alakrana, which was released along with its crew after a $3.5 million ransom was paid to Somali pirates, reports Al Jazeera.
The training mission is also intended as a symbolic gesture of support to the government of President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, reports Iran's PressTV. Although Ahmed took control of the country 11 months ago, his Mogadishu-based government has done little to reassert the central government's authority, and warlords and insurgents still control most of the country. Since the beginning of 2007, at least 19,000 civilians have been killed in the conflict and 1.5 million people have been displaced.
The details of the training mission are still unclear. On Tuesday, Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy chief, told reporters that the mission will most likely take place only on a relatively small scale, reports the Voice of America. He added that EU officials are still working out how much the European trainers will be responsible for and how much will be tasked to their Ugandan counterparts, who will also be training the Somali forces.
The EU has already been conducting an antipiracy mission off the coast of Somalia, which it says it will continue into 2010. While the new training mission will focus on building the capabilities of ground forces, EU officials say unless Somali forces are able to defeat the insurgency within their country it will be impossible for them or the international community to tackle the pirate problem, reports Deutsche Presse-Agentur.
Although navies from around the world have sent naval vessels to the Gulf of Aden to protect international shipping, Miller-McCune, an online magazine, reports that this is a "hugely inefficient way to fight pirates." However, it remains unclear how many other options there are for international governments.