U.S. and partners’ forces conducted defensive strikes against military targets in Houthi-controlled parts of Yemen yesterday following a series of attacks launched by the armed rebel group against commercial ships operating in the Red Sea.
The joint strikes were carried out by the U.S. and United Kingdom with nonoperational support from Australia, Bahrain, Canada and the Netherlands. They targeted Houthi missile, radar and unmanned areal vehicle capabilities used to carry out attacks against vessels operating in international waters.
President Joe Biden said the strikes serve as a “a clear message that the United States and our partners will not tolerate attacks on our personnel or allow hostile actors to imperil freedom of navigation in one of the world’s most critical commercial routes.”
“I will not hesitate to direct further measures to protect our people and the free flow of international commerce, as necessary,” he said in a statement following the strikes.
The U.S. and U.K. forces launched the strikes from air, surface and subsurface platforms and used precision-guided munitions to minimize collateral damage, a Pentagon official said during a press briefing following the strikes.
The strike package included a variety of aircraft flown by U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force and U.K. pilots.
“This action is intended to disrupt and degrade the Houthis’ capabilities to endanger mariners and threaten global trade in one of world’s most critical waterways,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said in a statement following the strikes. “Today’s coalition action sends a clear message to the Houthis that they will bear further costs if they do not end their illegal attacks.”
Austin added that the U.S. “maintains its right to self-defense and, if necessary, will take follow-on actions to protect U.S. forces.”
Since mid-November, Iran-backed Houthi rebels have launched more than two dozen attacks against merchant vessels operating in the Red Sea. Such attacks against the vital international shipping lane posed a vital concern and impacted international commerce across the globe.
In response, Austin announced the Dec. 18 launch of Operation Prosperity Guardian, an international maritime task force designed to defend against the attacks.
The operation brought together forces from 22 nations to address the challenges in the region and ensure freedom of navigation in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.
The forces operate under the umbrella of the Combined Maritime Forces and the leadership of Task Force 153, a U.S. Navy-led initiative focused on maritime security in the Red Sea. Earlier this week, the rebel group launched nearly 20 drones and several missiles targeting U.S. ships underway in the region. That attack was defeated by U.S. and U.K. forces operating in the region as part of Operation Prosperity Guardian.
Yesterday’s strikes launched against the rebel stronghold in Yemen were not associated with, and are separate from, Operation Prosperity Guardian, the Pentagon official said.
The defensive strikes followed sustained diplomatic efforts and broad international condemnation of the Houthi attacks that have threatened global commerce.
Last week, the governments of the U.S., Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand and the United Kingdom issued a joint statement condemning the attacks and warning the rebel group against further escalation.
In the statement, the nations warned that the Houthis “will bear the responsibility of the consequences should they continue to threaten lives, the global economy and [the] free flow of commerce in the region’s critical waterways.”
Earlier this week, the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution demanding that the rebel group cease all attacks against ships in the Red Sea.
In a statement following yesterday’s strike, the goverments of the U.S., Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, South Korea and the United Kingdom issued a joint statement further condemning the Houthis’ actions and warning against further escalation.
The nations’ statement read that the strikes “demonstrated a shared commitment to freedom of navigation, international commerce and defending the lives of mariners from illegal and unjustifiable attacks. Our aim remains to de-escalate tensions and restore stability in the Red Sea, but let our message be clear: We will not hesitate to defend lives and protect the free flow of commerce in one of the world’s most critical waterways in the face of continued threats.”