Kevin Sweeney Image Credit: Supplied

Manama: Rear Adm. Kevin Sweeney, commander of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, has reiterated his country’s commitment to Bahrain and the region.

“We have a full commitment to this area,” Sweeney said. “Our presence in the region is a continuation of six-decade long commitment to stand by our partners in the region and we’ll continue to honour that commitment.

“A big part of what I do out here as the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group Commander, in addition to helping protect the free flow of commerce, is to build trust and inspire confidence with our regional partners,” he said.

An enduring US presence in the region strengthens the US bond with regional partners, he added.

“We remain committed to this region,” he said. “We have had a continuous presence here for more than 60 years and we continue to work with our regional partners day in and day out to enhance security and stability, and build trust and confidence.

“Our Navy is committed to maintaining a sustainable defensive presence in support of our regional partners, providing the flexibility to react to crises, and safeguard the free flow of commerce in waterways to enable the global economy.

“Our deployment demonstrates our long-standing commitment to the stability of the region. I first came to this region and Bahrain as a young lieutenant back in 1990, and I cannot say enough about how well the Bahrainis embrace and support our Sailors,” he told Gulf News aboard the Truman in the Sea of Oman where the US and French navies have completed five weeks of unprecedented combined carrier strike group operations in the region. The French Navy Task Force 473 includes the French aircraft carrier FS Charles de Gaulle.

Admiral Sweeney described the joint operation as “incredibly successful.”

“For the first time ever, we brought US and French carrier strike groups together for five weeks of integrated operations,” he said.

“We were integrated from day one — We conducted flight operations from both aircraft carriers, we executed boarding exercises and helicopter operations on our smaller ships and we were even able to resupply each other’s ships using both French and American oilers.

“This was not training, it was five weeks of real-world operations that included training to enhance our mutual capabilities and increase our interoperability,” he said.

Sweeney, 54, said that the deployment had been highly useful in several ways.

“For me, our experience to date reinforces the critical importance and strategic advantage of having capable and relevant maritime power forward deployed to one of the key regions in the world.

“It demonstrates the long-term commitment the US has to the security and stability of the region. And as you have seen firsthand, after being forward deployed for seven months now, I continue to be amazed at what our young motivated Sailors and Marines accomplish each and every day,” said Sweeney who was responsible for USS Cole’s restoration and return to fleet operations in April 2002.

The size of the region, however, remains the greatest challenge the Navy has to face.

“The 5th Fleet area of responsibility covers a vast volume of water space and airspace to include the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea, [Sea] of Oman and of course the Arabian Gulf,” Sweeney said.

“As the commander of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, I need to balance how and where I allocate my strike group assets to meet the demands of the region.

“In a typical week, more than 500 ships will sail through the Strait of Hormuz. Of those, 300 are energy carriers representing 40 per cent of the world’s seaborne traded oil. That is a significant level of maritime traffic and volume of global resources. Of course, having region partners and other coalition partners from around the world contribute maritime security operations in the region helps significantly,” he said.