In the last two months, the French-UK led Combined Task Force (CTF) 150 has conducted ‘Operation Southern Surge’ seizing more than 13/4 tons of narcotics from traffickers in the Indian Ocean dealing a significant blow to the funding of terrorism. The seizures included 1250 kg of heroin and 455 kg of hashish.

Narcotics trafficking, particularly heroin, has long been associated with funding terrorism. It is estimated by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) that opiate-derived monies account for more than 10 per cent of Afghanistan’s GDP, and 50 per cent of the Taliban’s funding. Approximately 95 per cent of European heroin originates in Afghanistan.

With an Area of Operations more than 2,000,000 square miles in size, CTF 150 operations such as Southern Surge are necessary to concentrate forces and maximise coordination of the multi-national assets assigned to the task. French frigates Surcouf and Nivose, British frigate HMS Monmouth, Australian frigate HMAS Arunta and US destroyers USS Truxtun and USS Hue City have all conducted multiple boardings of suspicious dhows, resulting in the seizure and destruction of narcotics. Most of the seizures involved combined action between the warships and maritime patrol aircraft from France, Denmark and New Zealand, which supported the operation. These aircraft search wide areas of ocean in order to locate suspicious dhows, before passing their positions to the warships to intercept and board the vessels.

The impact of Combined Maritime Forces operations goes beyond narcotics seizures, as the involvement of so many nations helps to build international relationships among the participating nations, and allows them an opportunity to work together under cooperative conditions, fostering and developing partnerships with one another. The current combined French-UK staff supporting Rear Admiral Olivier Lebas as CTF 150 Commander is a clear example of the close partnership between France and the UK, based on the Combined Joint Expeditionary Force (CJEF) framework between these two countries, set up under the Lancaster House agreements of 2010.

Coordination with regional forces and actors outside of Combined Maritime Forces is equally as important. Capacity building, such as boarding training with local coast guards, enables the sharing of proven techniques and best practices. Key leadership engagement with regional navies, law enforcement agencies, political bodies and NGOs further enhances the operation by building mutually beneficial relationships and improved information exchange.

“I am delighted by the successes of Operation Southern Surge and wish to commend all those that have contributed. The cooperation, coordination and tenacity of the units from seven nations that have directly supported CTF 150 over the past two months has been exceptional, and showcases the spirit fostered within the Combined Maritime Forces,” said Admiral Lebas.

Established in 2002, CTF 150 is primarily focused on disrupting terrorist organisations and their activities by denying them the freedom of manoeuvre in the maritime domain.  In collaboration with international and regional maritime security partners, CTF 150 teams have seized and destroyed billions of dollars in drugs and captured thousands of weapons ensuring they are no longer available to organisations that would cause others harm.