The destroyer USS Carney defeats a combination of Houthi missiles and aerial drones in the Red Sea on Oct. 19, 2023.

The destroyer USS Carney defeats a combination of Houthi missiles and aerial drones in the Red Sea on Oct. 19, 2023. (Aaron Lau/U.S. Navy)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. and other nations are creating a new task force to protect shipping from Houthi attacks in the Red Sea, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced Monday.

“This is an international challenge that demands collective action,” Austin said in a statement. “Therefore, today I am announcing the establishment of Operation Prosperity Guardian, an important new multinational security initiative.”

Operation Prosperity Guardian brings together multiple countries including 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,” Austin said.

The new task force is part of Combined Task Force 153 created April 2022. The naval task force is responsible for patrolling some of the world’s most active shipping lanes in and around the Red Sea, where militant attacks and weapons seizures have increased in recent years.

The Iran-aligned Houthis have launched a flurry of attacks targeting Israel and ships in the Red Sea in the past two months since Hamas’ attack on Israel Oct. 7.

The news comes after reports of the Houthis again attacking a commercial vessel, the M/V Swan Atlantic, in the southern Red Sea Monday morning and the USS Carney responding. A defense official said they were aware of the report, and more information would be provided when it becomes available.

A U.S. warship on Saturday shot down 14 suspected attack drones over the Red Sea, and a Royal Navy destroyer downed another drone that was targeting commercial ships.

U.S. Central Command posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Carney “successfully engaged 14 unmanned aerial systems” launched from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen. The drones were shot down with no damage to ships in the area or reported injuries.

The move to set up the expanded operation came after three commercial vessels were struck by missiles fired by Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen on Dec. 3. White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Dec. 4 the U.S. was in talks with other countries over a maritime task force that would “ensure safe passage of ships in the Red Sea” but gave no further details at the time.

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Matthew Adams covers the Defense Department at the Pentagon. His past reporting experience includes covering politics for The Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle and The News and Observer. He is based in Washington, D.C.

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