International mission launched to safeguard Red Sea shipping lanes

 19. 12. 2023      Category: Naval forces

In a bold move to counteract the escalating attacks on ships in the Red Sea, the Pentagon, along with several international partners, has announced the establishment of Operation Prosperity Guardian. This multinational security initiative aims to protect vessels navigating the Red Sea, particularly those targeted by drones and ballistic missiles fired from Houthi-controlled regions in Yemen. The attacks have resulted in damage to multiple vessels, prompting shipping companies to halt their operations in the area until security concerns are addressed.

Picture: US Navy ship from helicoprer view heading to Red Sea | US Navy

The seriousness of the situation was underscored by recent attacks, including a strike by an attack drone and ballistic missile on a tanker off the coast of Yemen. Simultaneously, a cargo ship reported an explosive detonation in the vicinity, raising alarm within the maritime community.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, speaking in Bahrain, emphasized the global nature of the challenge and the necessity of collective action. He stated, "This is an international challenge that demands collective action." Consequently, Operation Prosperity Guardian was born, marking a significant step toward securing one of the world's most critical maritime trade routes.

The United States will be joined in this mission by several key allies, including the United Kingdom, Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles, and Spain. These nations will play various roles, with some conducting joint patrols and others providing essential intelligence support in the southern Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. Additionally, other countries have opted to participate in the operation but have chosen to remain anonymous, highlighting the sensitivity and importance of this endeavor.

Operation Prosperity Guardian will be coordinated by Combined Task Force 153 (CTF 153), an organization established in April 2022 to enhance maritime security in the Red Sea, Bab el-Mandeb, and the Gulf of Aden. While CTF 153 already boasts 39 member nations, discussions are underway to determine which countries will actively participate in this new mission.

Furthermore, the United States has called upon the United Nations Security Council to take action against the Houthi attacks. In a letter to council members, U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield emphasized that these attacks pose a significant threat to navigational rights, international maritime security, and global commerce. While the issue was discussed during a closed-door meeting, no immediate action was taken.

In response to the ongoing threat posed by the Houthi militia, the U.S. Navy has deployed two warships, the USS Carney and the USS Mason, to patrol the Bab el-Mandeb Strait actively. These vessels serve as a deterrent to further attacks and are prepared to respond swiftly if necessary.

It's important to note that, to date, the United States has refrained from launching counterattacks against the Iranian-backed Houthis operating in Yemen or targeting their weapons and infrastructure. Defense Secretary Austin did not provide a direct answer when questioned about the absence of a counterstrike during the announcement.

As Operation Prosperity Guardian takes shape and international cooperation intensifies, the mission to safeguard the Red Sea and protect vital shipping lanes from threats becomes a shared commitment among nations. The establishment of this initiative underscores the importance of collaboration in preserving global maritime security and ensuring the free flow of goods through these strategic waters.

 Author: Michal Fencl