Terrorism: January 13, 2003

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: USMC Major General John F. Sattler, Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa commander, held a press briefing from aboard the command ship USS Mount Whitney on 10 January. While operational details were sparse, Sattler put the situation in perspective: his Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa would track terrorist activity coming into and going out of the area, that may affect US operations. If need be, they would also take action against the enemy. Sattler told the press that "We're not just tracking al-Qaeda, our mission is for all transnational terrorism, regardless if it's individual, if it's sponsored by an organization like al-Qaeda or .. it's even cells that we haven't heard of." To cynics, this is known as a "Bug Hunt".

Sattler's 400-strong command group aboard the USS Whitney arrived in the area 30 days prior and starting overseeing operations immediately. Their force includes about 900 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti, as well as a small number of liaison personnel working in other parts of the region.

US Forces define the Horn of Africa region as the total airspace and land areas out to the high-water mark of Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti and Yemen. Combined Joint Task Force 150 (CTF-150), the allied maritime component (with assets from France, Great Britain, Germany, Spain and the United States) continues to patrol the area's extended waters in search of terrorists. The Al Qaeda network is suspected of having access to over a dozen freighters owned by Osama bin Laden.

Meanwhile, the foreign ministers of Ethiopia, Sudan and Yemen met in Khartoum over the 11-12 January weekend to reaffirm their commitment to fighting terrorism.
CJTF-HOA and CTF-150 also completed a 48 hour operational staff procedures exercise board USS Mount Whitney on 6 January, with the Spanish flagship Navarra, German frigate Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and German tanker Rhon served as maneuver and support elements throughout the training. Coalition force aircraft participated in exercise activities as well. The Mount Whitney and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern initially fired individually on the target and then synchronized their fire control to engage the target simultaneously. U.S. Navy CJTF-HOA helicopters also delivered close-in fires. 

One notable aspect of 21st century warfare is that the USS Mount Whitney has everything the command group needs to control operations already onboard, so there is no need to set up a land-base command center. This is a major relief for the force's security officers, since a land headquarters would require a significant number of additional troops to guard it. In light of the small boat attack on the USS Cole in 2000, the Mount Whitney also has a "tremendous anti-terrorism defense" and the crew practices dealing with attacks on a regular basis. - Adam Geibel

More on the USS Mount Whitney (LCC20), online at: www.mtwhitney.navy.mil

More on the Whitney's Air Squadron-6, online at: 
http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/main5/0D1B33A771FECCF185256CAC0025F1B6?opendocument


 

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