Secretary Commends Bangladesh's Peacekeeping Record, Role
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
DHAKA, Bangladesh, June 5, 2004 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld met here today with leaders of one of the world's most active countries in providing peacekeeping forces.
The visit marked the first to this South Asia nation by a U.S. defense secretary. Rumsfeld met with Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, who also serves as defense minister, and Foreign Minister Morshed Khan.
A U.S. defense official traveling with the secretary told reporters Bangladesh has no troops in Afghanistan or Iraq, but was part of the coalition during the 1991 Gulf War. It has provided peacekeeping forces to numerous trouble spots around the world, has participated in many humanitarian operations, and for years has operated a successful de-mining mission in Kuwait, the official said.
In a joint news conference with U.S. Ambassador Harry Keels Thomas Jr., Khan said the matter of whether Bangladesh would provide forces in Afghanistan or Iraq -- either as part of the current military coalitions or under a United Nations mandate did not come up in today's meetings.
Rumsfeld told reporters that while the subjects of Iraq, Afghanistan and the global war on terror did enter into discussions, the question of whether to provide forces is one each nation must decide on its own, doing whatever it feels comfortable doing.
He praised Bangladesh's record in peacekeeping. "I have a lot of respect for the peacekeeping role that this country has played in a lot of places, including Sierra Leone, Haiti and other countries," he said.
Khan said he and Rumsfeld had a "free, frank and candid discussion" on a variety of issues.
Bangladesh is one of the world's most densely populated countries, with more than 130 million people living in an area about the size of Wisconsin. It is a moderate Muslim nation with a secular approach to government, the defense official said, which may potentially serve as a model for other nations.
The country participates in about 15 military-to-military events with the United States each year, and sends 30 to 40 military officers each year to U.S. military schools, the official said.