The U.S. Navy is leading a 30-nation maritime exercise across Middle Eastern waters which it says will help protect international trade routes against possible threats, including from Islamic State and al Qaeda.
The International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX) started on Monday with a symposium in Bahrain where the U.S Navy’s Fifth Fleet is based, in part as a bulwark against Iran.Vice Adm. Kevin Donegan, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, said on Saturday the exercise was designed to stop militants from causing disruption to shipping.
Stars and Stripes – “(Militants) are well aware of the vulnerability of shipping and when its confined to choke points, ports, and channels,” Commodore William Warrender, (right) British deputy commander of the Combined Maritime Forces told reporters in Bahrain. “And also, the disproportionate media attention that perhaps a spectacular maritime attack would generate.”
One such threat is that al-Qaida has gained control of Yemen’s port city of Mukalla, giving it access to sea lanes that are regularly traveled, Donegan said.
“The goal is to have a collective understanding and a will to tackle the problem”, said Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Vice Adm. Kevin Donegan . “Its also to work with the maritime transport companies to understand their vulnerabilities and their role to help mitigate threat.”
The IMCMEX, which ends on April 26, focuses on operations such as mine countermeasures, infrastructure protection, and maritime security operations to protect civilian shipping.