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El Salvador to Continue Iraq Deployment

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 22, 2004 – El Salvador has "reupped" and will continue its deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, DoD officials said today.

El Salvador has had infantry and special forces personnel in Iraq since August 2003. The unit is part of the Multinational Division Central/South.

El Salvador is actually increasing its commitment. The country is sending 380 soldiers to Iraq, up from 360. "Given the size of the country and the size of the armed forces, this is a significant commitment," said Roger Pardo-Maurer, the deputy assistant defense secretary for Western Hemisphere affairs.

El Salvadoran troops first went to Iraq as part of a Central American battalion. Troops from Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic were part of the Spanish-led brigade. The Salvadoran troops provided security in the city of Najaf. "They performed 'shrine security,'" Pardo-Maurer said.

It was there that they distinguished themselves. In early April, the illegal militia of Muqtada al Sadr attacked a 16-member El Salvadoran squad. The Salvadoran troops fought until they ran out of ammunition and then fought with knives, said Pardo-Maurer. They held on until coalition forces broke through. One soldier was killed and several wounded in the hand-to-hand fighting. "They are very high-quality soldiers," he said.

The troops now work with U.S. forces in the area, and will probably stay in the same location for the next deployment.

Twenty years ago, El Salvador was going through its own version of hell. The country was wrecked by a civil war. El Salvador is now a democracy and has adopted a free trade policy. The military is under civilian control. "Now the country is an exporter of security," Pardo-Maurer said.

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