On April 17, the US Navy Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) announced that it had established a new international naval task force to enhance maritime security in the Red Sea region.
Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of US Naval Forces Central Command, US 5th Fleet and CMF, commissioned Combined Task Force (CTF) 153 during a ceremony at the US Navy’s regional headquarters in Bahrain.
CTF 153 will focus on international maritime security and capacity-building efforts in the Red Sea, Bab al-Mandeb and Gulf of Aden.
“This is a tangible and meaningful demonstration of our commitment to ensuring regional maritime security and stability through international cooperation,” said Cooper. “The Middle East region is dynamic and vast. There’s not one navy who can patrol the surrounding waters by themselves,” said Cooper. “We are always at our best when we are teaming with partners.”
The task force staff will include as many as 15 US and international military personnel from CMF member-nations. The staff is currently embarked aboard amphibious command ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20). When not at sea, CTF 153 personnel will work from offices ashore at CMF headquarters in Manama, Bahrain.
CTF 153 task force will be initially led by US Navy Capt. Robert Francis. Later in the fall, a regional officer will assume the leadership role.
The establishment of the new task force came amid a ceasefire between the US-backed Saudi-led coalition and the Houthis (Ansar Allah) in Yemen, the main hotspot on the Red Sea.
Commenting on the development, Mohammed al-Bukaiti, a member of the Houthis’ Political Bureau, told Sputnik that establishment of the task force was a “preemptive move” by the US to face the recent changes in Yemen.
“Certainly, there are significant negative repercussions for this American step, because it prolongs instability in the region, and this is what Washington always seeks for,” al-Bukaiti said. “But this American step in the Red Sea will not discourage Yemen from continuing its battle until the last inch of its land is liberated and the siege is lifted.”
The war in Yemen turned the Iran-allied Houthis to one of the main stakeholders when it comes to security in the Red Sea.
The US and its allies in the Middle East, including both Saudi Arabia and Israel, have been deeply worried about the growing offensive capabilities of the Houthis. To this day the group maintains control over most of Yemen’s Red Sea coast.