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U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin looks on during a joint press conference with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant at Israel's Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv, Israel December 18, 2023. REUTERS/Violeta Santos Moura

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin looks on during a joint press conference with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant at Israel's Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv, Israel December 18, 2023. REUTERS/Violeta Santos Moura

U.S. Launches ‘Operation Prosperity Guardian’ in Response to Houthi Threats

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 19052
December 18, 2023

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has formally announced the initiation of multi-national security initiative, known as Operation Prosperity Guardian, as a direct response to the increasing threats to international shipping posed by Houthi forces in the Southern Red Sea, Bab-el-Mandeb, and Gulf of Aden.

Secretary Austin said the reckless Houthi attacks originating from Yemen not only jeopardize the free flow of commerce but also endanger the lives of innocent mariners and flagrantly violate international law.

“The Red Sea is a critical waterway that has been essential to freedom of navigation and a major commercial corridor that facilitates international trade,” Secretary Austin said in a statement. “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.”

Recognizing the challenge, Secretary Austin announced the establishment of Operation Prosperity Guardian, a significant multinational security initiative operating under the auspices of the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) and led by Combined Task Force 153 (CTF 153), which specifically focuses on security matters in the Red Sea.

Full Coverage: Red Sea Shipping Attacks

Operation Prosperity Guardian brings together a coalition of 10 nations, including the U.S., United Kingdom, Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles, and Spain, in a joint effort to address security challenges in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. The primary goal of the operation is to ensure freedom of navigation for all nations while bolstering regional security and promoting prosperity.

The official launching of the operation comes after several of the world’s largest shipping companies have suspended voyages through the Red Sea and rerouted a growing number of vessels around the Cape of Good Hope.

The Iran-backed Houthi group has escalated attacks against merchant ships purportedly linked to Israel since the start of the Israel-Hamas war in October. On November 19, Houthi forces seized the Bahamas-flagged Galaxy Leader, a car carrier operated by NYK and owned by Ray Car Carriers. Since then, the Houthis have launched multiple drone and missile attacks against ships, in some instances causing relatively minor damage but so far no injuries reported among seafarers.

Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), established in 2001, is a multinational naval partnership of 39 nations committed to the international rules-based order at sea. In April 2022, it established Combined Task Force 153 (CTF 153), its fourth international naval task force at the time, to enhance maritime security specifically in the Red Sea region. CMF also has task forces dedicated to maritime security in the Gulf of Oman and Indian Ocean (CTF 150), counter-piracy efforts (CTF 151), and maritime security in the Persian Gulf (CTF 152). CTF 154, launched in May 2023, leads multinational maritime training at locations across the Middle East.

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