MANAMA, Bahrain– A new multinational task force is focusing solely on counter-piracy operations in and around the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and the Red Sea, the commander of the combined maritime forces in the region said.

The force created the Maritime Security Patrol Area in the Gulf of Aden in August to support international efforts to combat piracy. Coalition efforts included Combined Task Force 150, which conducted maritime security operations — such as the deterrence of drug smuggling and weapons trafficking.

“Some navies in our coalition did not have the authority to conduct counter-piracy missions,” Navy Vice William E. Gortney said. “The establishment of [Combined Task Force] 151 will allow those nations to operate under the auspices of CTF 150, while allowing other nations to join CTF 151 to support our goal of deterring, disrupting and eventually bringing to justice the maritime criminals involved in piracy events.”

Gortney commands U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, the U.S. 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces.

Establishing Combined Task Force 151 to focus on the counter-piracy mission enables Combined Task Force 150 to remain focused on security operations, officials said.

The admiral cautioned that although the new task force is a positive step, the efforts of coalition and international navies won’t solve the problem of piracy. Proactive measures by merchant mariners and efforts ashore by the international community also must be part of the equation, Gortney said.

“The most effective measures we’ve seen to defeat piracy are nonkinetic and defensive in nature,” he said. “The merchant ships have been doing a great job stepping up and utilizing these methods to defeat piracy attempts. That’s a great first step.

“But the problem of piracy is and continues to be a problem that begins ashore and is an international problem that requires an international solution,” he continued. “We believe the establishment of CTF 151 is a significant step in the right direction.”

Navy Rear Adm. Terence E. McKnight has been named the commander of the new task force, which will become fully operational in mid-January.

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