Royal Navy takes charge of counter-terror task force

An Anglo-French team now leads the fight against terrorists trying to use the waters east of Suez to conduct their illegal activities.

Headed by British Commodore Edward Ahlgren, the two dozen Royal Navy and Marine Nationale personnel will choreograph the actions of up to six international warships, policing a vast area of ocean looking for suspicious vessels – usually smuggling drugs to fund terrorism – but also weapons, explosives and people.

 

The Britons and Frenchmen take the reins of Combined Task Force 150 from Pakistan, whose four-month tenure under Commodore Alveer Ahmed Noor saw more than 25 tonnes of illegal narcotics seized – and terrorist overlords deprived of $19.5m (£16m) during 15 successful boarding operations, often carried out in tricky conditions during the monsoon season.

 

150 is one of three long-running international task forces run from Bahrain, dedicated to a specific security/safe seafaring mission, and comprising upwards of half a dozen ships drawn from more than 30 nations. Task Force 151 focuses on keeping piracy off the Horn of Africa in check; 152 concentrates on security within the Gulf.

 

This is the tenth time the RN has taken charge of the task group and despite the wealth of experience and knowledge British and French sailors have of the region (the French have commanded CTF 150 eight times), Commodore Ahlgren is under no illusions about the challenges facing his team and the warships under its direction as they patrol an area more than 30 times the size of the UK.

 

“This area is a vital artery of world trade from the Far East to Europe and the United States and covers three of the world’s strategic ‘choke points’. Within the seas of the region all manner of activity is undertaken: be it piracy, drug smuggling, arms running, people trafficking, migration or legitimate activity like trade, fishing or leisure.

 

“In all of that, it is about finding the bad guy amongst a sea of people.”

Our area of operation includes some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes and spans over 3.2 million square miles.

British Commodore Edward Ahlgren