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According to information from the US Navy on July 27, 2021 – naval forces from East Africa, states of the West Indian Ocean, Europe, North America and several international organizations have started the multinational sea exercise Cutlass Express 2021 (CE21).
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Members of the participating nations take part in a diving exercise during Exercise Cutlass Express 2019.2 and International Maritime Exercise 2019 in Djibouti, Djibouti. (Image source US Navy)

CE 21 (Cutlass Express 2021), sponsored by the US Africa Command and led by US Naval Forces Europe-Africa, US Sixth Fleet, evaluates and enhances the combined capacities for maritime law enforcement enforcement, promoting national and regional security in East Africa and increases interoperability between the US, African nations and international partners.

This year’s exercise uses the recently adopted Jeddah Amendment to the Djibouti Code of Conduct, which 14 nations have signed, as a framework for the exercise of information-sharing practices and the enforcement of maritime law. The participating nations will test their ability to combat illegal trade, piracy, illegal fishing and search and rescue situations.

The exercise will increase awareness of Maritime Domains (MDA), information sharing among Maritime Operation Centers (MOCs), maritime traffic prohibition, rule of law compliance and anti-proliferation skills to strengthen security in East Africa.

The exercise begins with a training phase in the port, followed by scenarios at sea and ends with a symposium for managers. The ongoing portion of the exercise tests the ship’s ability to conduct No-Sea Operations (MIO) by boarding teams against simulated suspicious ships, to detect illegal activities and to pursue evidence-gathering procedures.

The valuable operational experience gained during Cutlass Express helps ensure that participating countries are able to suppress and combat illegal activities such as piracy, arms trafficking, people smuggling, drug trafficking and illegal wildlife trafficking.

CE 21 is one of three US Naval Forces Europe-Africa / 6th Fleet-supported regional exercises conducted to provide African forces and international partners with opportunities to cooperate on comprehensive maritime security concerns.

Exercises such as Cutlass Express in East Africa / western Indian Ocean, Obangame Express in the Gulf of Guinea and Phoenix Express in the Mediterranean are covered by the Africa Partnership Station (APS) international collaborative maritime capacity building program as part of a phased construction concept of lasting relationships and combined capacities to ensure the safety of the ensure regional marine environment.

Nations participating in Cutlass Express 2021 include Comoros, Djibouti, Georgia, India, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, United Kingdom and the United States.

US Africa Command, headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, is one of 11 Combatant Commands of the US Department of Defense, each of which has a geographical or functional mission that takes over the command and control of armed forces in peace and war.

AFRICOM employs the far-reaching diplomacy, development and defense approach to fuel cross-agency efforts and help negate the drivers of conflict and extremism in Africa.