Operation Gone Awry: Navy SEALs Missing Off Somalia’s Coast
In a challenging nighttime operation off the coast of Somalia, two Navy SEALs are still missing more than two days after an incident that occurred while attempting to board a suspicious vessel in severe seas. According to anonymous U.S. government officials cited by The Associated Press, the SEALs encountered heavy waves, leading to one member being thrown off the vessel. The other SEAL entered the water in an attempt to rescue their teammate. Search and rescue operations persist in the warm seas of the Gulf of Aden.
Uncertainty Surrounds the Incident
The circumstances surrounding why the vessel attracted the attention of the SEALs remain unclear. While the U.S. Central Command confirmed the sailors’ disappearance, operational security concerns limit the release of additional information. The incident raises questions about the nature of the mission and the challenges faced by naval forces operating in the region. Somalia’s strategic location and the ongoing threat of arms smuggling by Houthi insurgents in Yemen, supported by Iran, add complexity to maritime operations.
Ongoing Interdictions and Multinational Efforts
Naval forces in the U.S. Fifth Fleet’s area of operations routinely conduct interdiction operations to counter the smuggling of weapons to Houthi insurgents. Previous successes include the seizure of thousands of AK-47 firearms in 2023, originating from a vessel traveling from Iran to Yemen through the Gulf of Oman. Multinational efforts have also resulted in the interdiction of explosive chemicals, ammunition, and significant quantities of illegal drugs, with officials linking the proceeds to funding Houthi terrorists.
The U.S. Coast Guard, operating under Combined Task Force 150, made a recent drug interdiction, seizing around eleven million dollars’ worth of illegal substances. These operations underscore the broader challenges faced in the region, with officials emphasizing the destabilizing activities originating from Iran.
CENTCOM Highlights Houthi Threats and Retaliatory Strikes
In response to Houthi threats and attacks in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) revealed that Houthi militants have attempted 28 assaults on ships since November 19. These attacks included the use of cruise missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles, and anti-ship ballistic missiles. Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, former commander of the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and the U.S. Fifth Fleet, characterized the January 2023 weapons seizure as part of a sustained pattern of destabilizing activity linked to Iran.
The ongoing search for the missing Navy SEALs unfolds against the backdrop of retaliatory strikes on Houthi-controlled military locations in Yemen. These strikes, occurring on Friday and Saturday, are distinct from Operation Prosperity Guardian, a multinational effort targeting Houthi militant attacks on ships in the Red Sea. The careful delineation aims to avoid confusion between distinct operational initiatives in the region.