Skip to main content
The new multinational task force would target arms smuggling around Yemen. It's the latest military response to Houthi attacks.

US Navy establishes new task force to patrol Red Sea

Apr 13, 2022


The U.S. Navy will begin a new task force with allied countries to patrol the Red Sea, targeting arms smuggling around Yemen. It’s the latest military response to Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

“These are strategically important waters that warrant our attention,” Fifth Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Brad Cooper said on a call with reporters, adding that the trafficking of people and drugs would also be targeted.

Cooper 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.

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  the USS Mount Whitney, a Blue Ridge class amphibious command ship previously part of the Navy’s African and European 6th Fleet, will join it.

Cooper said he hoped the task force would target those smuggling coal, drugs, weapons and people in the waterway. Coal smuggling has been used by Somalia’s al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab to fund their attacks. Weapons linked by the Navy and analysts to Iran have been intercepted in the region as well, likely on their way to the Houthis. Yemen also sees migrants from Africa try to cross its war-torn nation to reach jobs in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.

The Red Sea is a vital shipping lane for both cargo and the global energy supplies, making any mining of the area a danger not only to Saudi Arabia but to the rest of the world. Mines can enter the water and then be carried away by the currents, which change by the season in the Red Sea.