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Pentagon Announces Task Force to Combat Drone, Missile Attacks in Crucial Shipping Sea Lane

NBC News
NBC News

By: Micaela Burrow, Daily Caller News Foundation

The U.S. and allies on Monday announced a multinational task force aimed at undercutting attacks on commercial vessels in the Red Sea as the Houthi rebels put a vice on shipping through a critical waterway, the Pentagon said early Tuesday in Bahrain.

Operation Prosperity Guardian will involve a multitude of nations including the United Kingdom, Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles and Spain and build on an existing regional task force established to ensure maritime security, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said while on a tour of the Middle East. The Iran-backed Houthis, based in Yemen, have launched barrages of missile and drone attacks on commercial shipping in recent weeks, while U.S. warships scramble to come to their rescue.

“This is an international challenge that demands collective action,” Austin said in the statement.

“The recent escalation in reckless Houthi attacks originating from Yemen threatens the free flow of commerce, endangers innocent mariners, and violates international law,” Austin said.

At least 10 shipping companies have suspended transits through the Red Sea, citing the danger posed by the Houthis, according to a list compiled by Reuters.

“The Red Sea is a critical waterway that has been essential to freedom of navigation and a major commercial corridor that facilitates international trade. Countries that seek to uphold the foundational principle of freedom of navigation must come together to tackle the challenge posed by this non-state actor launching ballistic missiles and uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) at merchant vessels from many nations lawfully transiting international waters.”

Some of the participants will conduct joint patrols through the Red Sea and around the Gulf of Aden and the critical Bab el-Mandeb strait, while others will provide intelligence support, The Associated Press reported.

Combined Task Force 153, the task force on which Prosperity Guardian is modeled, involves 39 countries, but officials are still working to parse out which would participate, the AP reported. CTF 153 began in 2022 to ensure maritime security in the waters now terrorized by the Houthis.

The USS Carney, the USS Stethem and the USS Mason, American Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, have been patrolling the waters every day to hold the ropes on a deterioriating security situation.

The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier arrived in the Bab el-Mandeb from the Arabian Gulf on Monday, satellite imagery shows.

Attacks on Dec. 3 prompted the move to establish the task force, the AP reported. Three commercial vessels sustained hits by Houthi missiles that day as U.S. destroyers fended off drones.

Related Story: U.S. Warship Downs Suicide ‘Drone Wave’ Launched from Yemen in Red Sea

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