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Rumsfeld Praises Central American Troop Contributions in Iraq

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras, Aug. 21, 2003 – U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld praised the U.S.-Honduran military partnership here Aug. 20, saying that Honduras, along with two other Central American nations, is sending troops for peacekeeping duty in Iraq.

Rumsfeld, visiting with about 500 U.S. Joint Task Force Bravo troops at Honduran air base Soto Cano, praised Honduran government officials, noting they were sending some of their troops "half a world away" to help U.S. and other coalition troops keep Iraq secure and free.

Defense officials said Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador are sending a combined total of about 1,000 troops to Iraq. Honduras' contribution includes about 350 troops, while other sources cite El Salvador as sending another 350, with Nicaragua providing around 250. Rumsfeld noted that the United States was "grateful" for the support.

The task force -- a part of U.S. Southern Command -- was originally stood up in the early 1980s to support Central American militaries allied with the United States to effect stability in a region then beset by civil conflicts.

Today, JTF Bravo's mission is "to enhance cooperative regional security through forward presence and peacetime engagement operations," according to SOUTHCOM. Those missions include exercises, humanitarian and civic assistance projects, disaster relief and support for counterdrug operations.

"I'm glad to be here; I appreciate what you're doing," Rumsfeld told the task force's troops, adding that the exploits of U.S. troops in the war against global terrorism are admired by the American public and "are respected across the globe."

"You folks really do a superb job thank you so much," he said.

The secretary noted that the Honduran government is a valuable ally in the war against global terrorism.

Later in the day the secretary went to the capital city of Tegucigalpa to meet with Honduran President Ricardo Maduaro Joest, Minister of Defense Federico Breve Travieso and other senior officials.

Earlier on his two-day trip, Rumsfeld visited Bogota, Colombia, to discuss that nation's fight against narcoterrorists and insurgents with officials.

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