The U.S. Navy said Wednesday it will begin a new task force with allied countries to patrol the Red Sea after a series of attacks attributed to Yemen’s Houthi rebels in a waterway that’s essential to global trade.
Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, who oversees the Navy’s Mideast-based 5th Fleet, declined four times to directly name the Iran-backed Houthis in his remarks to journalists announcing the task force. However, the Houthis have launched explosive-laden drone boats and mines into the waters of the Red Sea, which runs from Egypt’s Suez Canal in the north, down through the narrow Bab el-Mandeb Strait in the south that separates Africa from the Arabian Peninsula.
“In a macro sense, this region literally and figuratively fuels the world,” Cooper said. “The area is so vast that we just can’t do it alone so we’re going to be at our best when we partner.”
The Combined Maritime Forces command, a 34-nation organization which Cooper oversees from a base in Bahrain, already has three task forces that handle piracy and security issues both inside and outside of the Persian Gulf. The new task force will be commissioned Sunday and will see the USS Mount Whitney, a Blue Ridge class amphibious command ship previously part of the Navy’s African and European 6th Fleet, join it.