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Military Using Alternatives to Suez Canal In Middle East

March 29, 2021 | BY C. Todd Lopez , DOD News

Last week, the container ship "Ever Given" became lodged in the Suez Canal, the 120-mile long man-made waterway that runs through Egypt and connects the Red Sea with the Mediterranean Sea. The waterway allows commercial vessels to travel more quickly between the Far East and Europe. The route is also used by military ships, including those of the United States Navy. The blockage is not a show stopper for the U.S. military, however.

Multiple military ships move through a narrow passage of water.
USS San Jacinto
The guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto follows the aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman during a Suez Canal transit with the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, Aug. 18, 2013.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Rob Aylward
VIRIN: 130818-N-PW661-019M

"Because we've long recognized the fact that narrow waterways like this are maritime chokepoints, we always make sure that we have alternate capabilities to meet mission requirements," Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said during a briefing Monday afternoon. "We have recognized the fact that chokepoints like the Suez Canal could suffer blockages like this, and it's factored into just normal operational planning."

Beyond that, Kirby said, the temporary shutdown of the Suez Canal has not caused the U.S. military to rethink its posture in the Middle East or its mission requirements there, because there are already other plans in place for such situations.

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"In any circumstance around the world, the U.S. military has ... at its disposal any number of alternate ways of achieving mission success and meeting our mission requirement," he said.

Kirby also commended the Egyptian government for its work so far in getting the ship freed from the canal and its efforts to re-open the canal to maritime traffic.

A small boat, with the word "pilot" written on the front, pulls alongside a larger vessel. Men move between the vessels.
Sea Sail
Suez Canal pilots and Egyptian Army officers depart the guided-missile destroyer USS Mitscher after a Suez Canal transit, Oct. 18, 2014.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Anthony R. Martinez
VIRIN: 141018-N-RB546-400

"I would also say that we want to commend Egyptian authorities for — the only way to put it is — a Herculean effort to get this ship free," Kirby said. "Clearly they have done just amazing work getting that freighter off the ... canal bank, and back in the middle of it again ... I think they deserve a lot of credit for that."