US officials are considering forming a Red Sea task force with other nations after a series of attacks by Yemen’s Houthis against commercial shipping that’s come in response to the Israeli onslaught in Gaza.
“We are in talks with other countries about a maritime task force of sorts involving the ships from partner nations alongside the United States in ensuring safe passage of ships in the Red Sea,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said on Monday.
Sullivan’s comments came a day after the Pentagon said a US Navy destroyer, the USS Carney, responded to attacks on three commercial vessels in the Red Sea that were launched from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen. The Pentagon said the USS Carney shot down three drones heading in its direction, but Sullivan said the US “cannot assess” if the US warship was purposely targeted.
The Houthis, formally known as Ansar Allah, took credit for attacks on two of the commercial vessels, saying they were tied to Israel, but did not say they targeted the USS Carney. The Houthis have also recently fired missiles and drones at Israel, and some have been intercepted by US warships in the Red Sea.
The US has backed a Saudi-led coalition against the Houthis in a brutal war in Yemen since 2015, but it’s rare the US and the Houthis exchange direct fire. Back in 2016, the US bombed Houthi radar sites in response to attacks on a US warship in the region. At the time, the Houthis denied targeting the US vessel.
Sullivan warned the US could “take appropriate action” in response to the Houthi attacks “at a time and place of our choosing.” A direct US attack on the Houthis could risk escalating the war in Yemen, where a ceasefire has held relatively well since April 2022.