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Counterpiracy Lessons for the Current Crisis in Yemen

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In the past two months, the waters around Yemen have witnessed an escalation in Houthi militant attacks on merchant shipping near the Bab el Mandeb strait, connecting the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden.

These incidents, including the seizure of the car carrier Galaxy Leader in November, have prompted international responses reminiscent of counter-piracy operations off Somalia and in the Gulf of Guinea. The United States introduced Prosperity Guardian, an international operation managed by Combined Task Force 153 (CTF-153), with the participation of at least eight nations.

Drawing parallels with the successful counter-piracy efforts off Somalia, CTF-153 has adopted a similar approach, designating a command ship, establishing transit corridors, and concentrating naval protection along specific routes. Lessons from the Gulf of Guinea's Yaoundé Architecture, which reduced piracy significantly by employing regional leadership and collaboration forums, suggest the need for CTF-153 to engage regional leaders, deconflict forces, and standardize reporting procedures.

Addressing the legal complexities of apprehending hijackers becomes crucial, as seen in the Gulf of Guinea where detainment without prosecution raised challenges. While Seychelles' commitment to participating in CTF-153 offers promise, distinctions between Somali pirates and Houthi combatants need clarification.

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Facing new challenges such as land-based missiles and drones, CTF-153 emphasizes the importance of designated shipping corridors, patrol deconfliction, and standardized communication for success. The ongoing detention of the Galaxy Leader off the Yemeni coast adds urgency to resolving the situation, mirroring past piracy cases involving complex international ownership structures.

CTF-153's strength lies in the global nature and economic importance of the maritime shipping industry, potentially isolating the Houthis diplomatically. With an intricate web of national interests involved in the attacked vessels, a multinational coalition, following the successful models against piracy, is seen as key to countering the Houthi aggression effectively. The complex ownership and economic dynamics involved make it imperative for CTF-153 to learn from past experiences and ensure a coordinated effort to thwart the Houthi threat.


Source: U.S Naval Institute