The New Red Sea Naval Coalition Is Pure Biden: Weak, Ineffectual, and Designed to Encourage our Enemies

Petty Officer 3rd Class Bill Dodge/U.S. Navy via AP

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced Tuesday that the United States and several other nations are creating a maritime task force to protect ships transiting the Red Sea. Since Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, ships allegedly owned by Israeli interests or bound for Israeli ports have come under missile and drone attacks from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen. The Houthis have attacked at least ten commercial ships, and two ships have been hijacked, one to Yemen and one to Somalia.


The Pentagon telegraphed the announcement over the weekend: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin Expected to Announce International Coalition to Protect Red Sea Shipping.

To address this unprecedented series of attacks, the Secretary urged participants to join U.S.-led and other international initiatives and work with U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (USNAVCENT) and the 39-member Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) to restore security in the Red Sea to deter future Houthi aggression. Secretary Austin pointed to CMF's Task Force 153—charged with international maritime security and capacity-building in the Red Sea, Bab al-Mandeb, and the Gulf of Aden—as an existing multi-lateral platform that could be leveraged to deter attacks under the CMF. He reiterated that the international community is faced with an unprecedented global challenge that demands collective action. The United States will continue to consult and work alongside allies and partners, who share the fundamental principle of freedom of navigation.

Austin spelled out the organization and participation in the new endeavor in his statement.

This is an international challenge that demands collective action. Therefore, today I am announcing the establishment of Operation Prosperity Guardian, an important new multinational security initiative under the umbrella of the Combined Maritime Forces and the leadership of its Task Force 153, which focuses on security in the Red Sea.

Operation Prosperity Guardian is bringing together multiple countries to include the United Kingdom, Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles and Spain, to jointly address security challenges in the southern Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, with the goal of ensuring freedom of navigation for all countries and bolstering regional security and prosperity.


The new task force will be a part of the Combined Maritime Forces organization. It is commanded by a US three-star admiral with a Royal Navy second in command and headquartered in Bahrain. The CMF consists of five task forces focused on counter-narcotics, counter-smuggling, suppressing piracy, and encouraging regional cooperation,

  • CTF 150 (Maritime Security Operations outside the Arabian Gulf)
  • CTF 151 (Counter-Piracy)
  • CTF 152 (Maritime Security Operations inside the Arabian Gulf)
  • CTF 153 (Red Sea Maritime Security)
  • CTF 154 (Maritime Security Training)

The new task force, operating under the rather heinous name of Operation Prosperity Guardian, will be subordinate to the existing CTF 153 headquarters and involve surface combatants from ten nations: United States, United Kingdom, Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles, and Spain. On the map below, blue dots are US forces, green are allied navies, and red are enemy navies.

Action to protect merchant ships transiting the Red Sea, particularly the Bab el-Maneb Strait, has become necessary. In the past few days, shipping giants Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd (Major Shipping Lines Avoid Red Sea; Is It Just the Houthis or Should We Be Looking Deeper?), as well as BP, have ordered their ships to stop using the Red Sea.

Don't expect much to come out of this organization.

The most important takeaway is that this is an unnecessary coalition that reduces the ability of the US Navy to react to moves by the Houthi. By shackling the Navy to a very weak multinational coalition, layers of complexity. It could be weeks or months before a command structure is finalized and rules of engagement that have unanimous consent of the participating nations are agreed upon. This coalition's sole purpose is to make any response against the Houthi an "international" rather than an American response.


Many key participants in the anti-piracy and counter-narcotics missions and nations with a vested interest in maritime security in the Red Sea and its approaches aren't playing. Missing are Turkey, Greece, Denmark, Portugal, India and Australia. There are reports that some other nations will assist with intelligence gathering, etc., but they do not want to be publicly identified as participants. The unofficial word is that the Germans are not participating because they literally don't have ships sufficiently seaworthy for the mission.

Bahrain is the only regional country playing. This is significant because Egypt has a major role in CTF 153, and command of CTF 153 has rotated between US and Egyptian admirals. If this is a test of strength between the US and Iran (and China), the fact that Egypt and Saudi Arabia have bowed out shows which way the political winds are blowing.

The Chinese have six warships stationed in the Red Sea/Persian Gulf area of operations. They are not participating, and they are not aiding commercial traffic under attack. Draw your own conclusions.

The wild card in this burgeoning fiasco is the presence of a squadron of four Israeli corvettes (1 x Sa'ar 6 and 3 x Sa'ar 5) and a missile boat (Sa'ar 4.5) at Eilat on the Red Sea. They aren't part of the CTF 153 structure, and no one knows what they may do.

In my view, this is just another case of the Biden national security apparatus trying to give the impression of doing something while doing nothing. The obvious reason they are doing nothing is that Biden, Sullivan, etc., don't want to offend Iran. Instead of looking after our national interests (safe and rapid transit of sea lanes) and showing confidence and leadership, the Biden White House has elected to show weakness and uncertainty. Nothing good will come from this.



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