BAHRAIN's military and its security measures against extremism were praised by a top US official yesterday.
Bahrain's Navy and its other forces are something the country should be proud of, said US Naval Forces Central Command and Fifth Fleet Commander Vice-Admiral Kevin Cosgriff.
"I've been working here since February with the military and I've been uniformly impressed with the quality of the officers and sailors in the Bahrain Navy and other members of the Bahrain forces," he told a Press conference at the Naval Support Activity (NSA), Juffair.
He said Bahrain was the first country in the region to join the Combined Maritime Forces and it remained at the forefront of operations.
The Combined Maritime Forces commander said that since Bahrain had joined, it had operated in taskforce 152, (geographically responsible for the majority of the Gulf) and its ship Sabah and missile control boats regularly operated inside the coalition.
Before Bahrain joined the coalition, it had also conducted bilateral exercises with the US Navy and multilateral exercises with other countries, he said.
Bahrain is well protected against the risk of an attack by violent extremists, said Vice-Adm Cosgriff.
He said the country had an advantage because it was an island and it also had good security measures in place.
"There are very good controls on the causeway and the water around Bahrain, with a few exceptions, is very shallow, so that restrains the kind of craft that can move on it," he explained.
"The access into the larger Arabian Gulf is rather well defined hydrographically, so there are limited avenues for approach, so I think it's an advantage."
Vice-Adm Cosgriff said the coalition, which consisted of 20 nations, including Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, worked on maritime security and this was important for the prosperity of the region.
"Most of the commercial activities of this region is being carried out by sea and keeping those sea lanes free and unimpeded, having access to the bounty of the sea by fishermen and others that use the oceanic resources peacefully, is an important part of the coalitions work," he said.
The coalition looks out for explicit threats to the region's territorial interests, such as the movement of vessels carrying cargo that could be used in the facilitation of terror, said the naval chief.
It is also obliged to prevent piracy when they come across it and in the Gulf they mainly see it in the form of armed robbery.
"In the Gulf, piracy is like armed robbery. It happens at night, when fishing boats are fishing peacefully and people will show up in a small skiff with automatic weapons and rob the fishermen. They will take money, electronics and there have even been reports of them taking fish," said Vic Adm Cosgriff.
"The coalition and Bahrain are concerned about this and have ideas how we will help them."
He said violent extremists had used seas in the past to launch an attack and there was every reason to think that some of the infrastructure in the area continued to be targeted, which was why the coalition worked with nations in the region to help complement their own internal security.
"What we try to do in the coalition is not try to do their (the country's) work, because it is the responsibility of each country and Bahrain has a very good record at doing these sorts of things consistently and well," he said.
"But we could team with a country like Bahrain, or other regional countries and provide an additional layer."
He said the US Navy had been operating in this part of the world for the last 60 years and there was every expectation it would be here for decades to come, with continuing strong relations with Bahrain.
There are no plans to significantly change the structure, or current number of ships in the region, in the near future, said Vice-Adm Cosgriff.
"US Navy forces and coalition forces operate in and out on a regular basis, so that's why it's not surprising at sometimes we have more ships come in and relieve ships that are here," he said.
"We are (currently) average for navy ships and a little below average for coalition ships."
Meanwhile, he said that while there was tension between Iran and some other countries in the region, the US didn't like to think it was part of the reason for this tension.
"We, for the most part operate in international waters, except when we are invited into countries," he said.
"We will continue to operate in international waters with our friends in other parts of the world and do so in a way that is open, not provocative.
"We don't conduct missile exercises in the Straits of Hormuz and others do."
Vic Adm Cosgriff said the countries on this side of the Gulf didn't pose any threat to Iran and there was no discussion of this nature that he was aware of.
"We watch what their (Iran's) ships do when they go to sea and of course they watch what our ships do too," he said.
"We are not trying to provoke them. We operate consistently and openly inside the Gulf and outside the Gulf."