Counter-Terrorism: The Naval War Against al Qaeda

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May 3, 2006: On December 12, 2001, multi-national Coalition Task Force 150 was formed to police an enormous area, from the Strait of Hormuz and Pakistani territorial waters in the north, via the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and southwards to Kenya and the Seychelles, in support of the war on terror. These waters are those most likely to be used by al Qaeda to support terrorist operations.

Since then, vessels attached to TF-150 have participated in hundreds of maritime intercept operations (MIOs), in which passing vessels are boarded and searched for contraband, run numerous anti-piracy patrols (and engaged pirates on several occasions), monitored violations of exclusive economic zones as a favor to local governments, and conducted other operations in support of Coalition efforts against international criminals and terrorists.

TF-150 is built around ships from France, Germany, the United States, and Pakistan, which are regularly supplemented by vessels from other nations, which currently include Britain, Canada, the Netherlands, and New Zealand, while Japan has contributed a logistical support ship. Although at present composed of about a dozen ships, TF-150 has at time numbered several dozen. On April 24th Rear Admiral Shahid Iqbal of the Pakistani Navy assumed command of TF-150 from Commodore Hank Ort of the Royal Netherlands Navy.

Most participants in TF-150 have been NATO members or other allies of the U.S., including Italy, Spain, and Australia. Command of TF-150 rotates among the participating navies. The appointment of RADM Iqbal, who is both first Pakistani and the first Moslem to command TF-150, was made both to recognize the non-NATO role in the operation and to encourage other Moslem nations to take part. Reportedly negotiations with Saudi Arabia are in progress, and are scheduled with Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. In addition, Kenya has expressed an interest in participating, and talks are believed scheduled with South Africa, which has the most capable navy in sub-Saharan Africa.

 


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