The Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) Commander’s Conference took place in Bahrain on 2 Feb 16. The bi-annual conference brings together senior military representatives from CMF members, to update them on CMF’s achievements, assess operational effectiveness and discuss, in an open forum, ways of improving and developing CMF capabilities.

In his opening remarks, the Commander of the Combined Maritime Forces, Vice Admiral Donegan USN, highlighted the unique nature of CMF as a coalition and the complexities of the operating area.   He stressed the importance of maintaining the free flow of commerce, enabled by maintaining freedom of navigation through the strategically important choke points of the Bab el Mandeb Strait, the Strait of Hormuz and the Suez Canal.

Group photo of CMF members at the Commander’s Conference

 Vice Admiral Donegan reinforced the importance of carrying out Maritime Security Operations and highlighted the fact that, whilst acts of terrorism in the maritime environment are rare, a number of terrorist groups have both publically declared an intention to carry out such acts and have previously demonstrated an ability to do so. Furthermore, he underlined the fact that whilst Somali Piracy had been effectively suppressed by the actions of CMF, the European Union Naval Force (EUNAVFOR) and NATO, the threat remained and could not be ignored.

In keeping with the unique nature of CMF, as a coalition of willing nations, welcoming prospective members and new members is key to its long term success. This year, the highlight of the conference saw Admiral Donegan formally welcome Iraq as a full member of CMF. In a short speech, Admiral Amad, the head of the Iraqi Navy, said: “It’s an honour to be part of CMF. Our country has suffered greatly from terrorism in the past. We now look forward to fighting terrorism in the maritime area and to sharing the lessons we have drawn from past experiences with our CMF partners in order to enhance the exchange of information with CMF.”

In concluding the conference, Vice Admiral Donegan rounded up by stressing the unique nature of CMF: “CMF has three Combined Task Forces (CTFs) which it uses to achieve its objectives through actions and operations. Every member is an integral part of what CMF will achieve in the next 12 months. The CTFs are here to carry out the work which is being discussed and laid out during this conference.”