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January 8, 2009

New counter-piracy task force

The U.S.-led Combined Maritime Force (CMF), which includes Naval ships and assets from more than 20 nations, has established a new task force specifically for counter-piracy operations.

U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Terence "Terry" McKnight has been named the commander of the new Combined Task Force 151 which will be fully operational by the middle of January.

Until creation of CTF-151, counter-piracy was, essentially, an "add on" mission for the existing CTF-150, whose charter was for the conduct of Maritime Security Operations (MSO) in the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Oman, the Arabian Sea, Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. Operations included the deterrence of destabilizing activities, such as drug smuggling and weapons trafficking.

The CMF created the Maritime Security Patrol Area (MSPA) in the Gulf of Aden in August of 2008 to support international efforts to combat piracy and CTF-150 assets have been patrolling the area with ships and aircraft.

The establishment of CTF-151 will allow CTF-150 assets to remain focused on irs original MSO missions, giving CTF-151 the ability to focus solely on the counter-piracy mission.

"Some navies in our coalition did not have the authority to conduct counter-piracy missions," said Vice Adm. Bill Gortney, CMF commander. "The establishment of CTF-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 highlighted the reduction in piracy events in the region due to merchant mariners' proactive measures, saying that "the most effective measures we've seen to defeat piracy are non-kinetic and defensive in nature."


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