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US-led Cutlass Express boosts policing of East Africa’s waters

Members of the Kenyan Navy keep watch as part of a search and seizure drill during Cutlass Express on Tuesday Feb. 6, 2018 near Djibouti. The exercise is designed to improve maritime policing and cooperation between U.S., East African and western Indian Ocean nations. ALYSSA WEEKS/U.S. NAVY

A U.S.-led exercise aimed at helping East African and Indian Ocean nations thwart piracy, illegal fishing and other seaborne crimes is set to end on Thursday.

The 16 participating countries worked together to spot, raid and search suspicious ships during simulations near Djibouti and Seychelles in the weeklong Cutlass Express. U.S. Africa Command and the Navy’s 6th Fleet hosted the exercise.

“Today we see cooperation between countries with diverse foreign policies unified around the common theme of maritime security,” J. Alexander Hamilton, U.S. deputy chief of mission in Djibouti, said in a statement.

Cutlass is one of three yearly exercises designed to strengthen cooperative policing in waters where criminal activity is a constant problem, especially near vital shipping routes. The other two exercises are Obangame Express in West Africa and Phoenix Express in the Mediterranean.

Better policing protects U.S. goods from going in and out of African waters but also curtails drug smuggling, human trafficking and other crimes that can spur corruption and fund extremists, said Christopher Jasparro, national security affairs professor at the Naval War College.

Working together with East African nations also helps secure military and commercial access to regional ports and seaways, blocking China and other adversaries from courting these countries, he said.

“This has become more important recently as China and other nations expand their naval operation and presence into the Indian Ocean,” Jasparro said.

Besides the United States, participating countries in Cutless Express were: Australia, Canada, Comoros, Denmark, Djibouti, France, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Somalia, the Netherlands, Tanzania and Turkey.

This year, countries with operation centers all used the SeaVision 2.0 computer program, which gave them the same electronic picture of activities occurring on the ocean.

Jasparro said helping African countries reduce crime on their regional waters make the seaways safer for all.

“The ocean is a big place and (neither) the U.S. nor any other power can police it on its own,” he said.


© 2018 the Stars and Stripes

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