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Rumsfeld's Mongolia Visit Focuses on Peacekeeping Operations

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia, Oct. 22, 2005 – Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld applauded Mongolia's efforts to enhance its peacekeeping capabilities here today, reaffirming to Mongolian Defense Minister Tserenkhuu Sharavdorj a commitment that the United States "is anxious and willing and ready" to assist.

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U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld (left) and Mongolia Minister of Defense Tserenkhuu Sharavdorj conduct a news conference in front of the statue of famous 13th century Mongolian warrior Ghengis Khan in the country's capital city of Ulaanbaatar, Oct. 22. Rumsfeld arrived in Ulaanbaatar for meetings with senior military and civilian leaders to review U.S.-Mongolia defense relationships and to express appreciation for Mongolia's support in the global war on terrorism. Photo by Master Sgt. James M. Bowman, USAF

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Rumsfeld, the first U.S. defense secretary to visit Mongolia, delivered that message while standing alongside Sharavdorj in front of a large statue of Genghis Khan, the famous 13th century Mongolian warrior.

"If there is anything that's clear in the 21st century, it's that the world needs peacekeepers, and I congratulate the people of Mongolia, the government and the armed forces of Mongolia for selecting that as a principal aspect of their military focus," Rumsfeld said during a joint news conference at Mongolia's Defense Ministry.

Mongolia, a nation just smaller than Alaska and situated between Russia and China, has an 11,000-member military that's striving to become "an internationally recognized, credible peacekeeping force," a senior military official traveling with Rumsfeld told reporters on background.

With plans to elevate its Five Hills Training Center into a "peacekeeping center of excellence," the Mongolian military is in the throes of transforming its military into what the official said it hopes will ultimately become "the speed dial of the United Nations."

The U.S. is supporting that effort with $18 million in military assistance this year -- $4.5 million of it under the Global Peace Operations Initiative, regular training exchanges and bilateral peacekeeping exercises, among other initiatives, the official told reporters.

For the past three years, the United States has participated in Khaanquest, a bilateral peacekeeping exercise that aims to improve bilateral peacekeeping capability between the two countries, he said.

In addition, several U.S. Marine Corps noncommissioned officers recently began a six-month rotation here, where they are embedded with Mongolian army units to help train soldiers in marksmanship, field skills and other specialties critical to peacekeeping operations, the official said.

At least two rotations of Marine trainers are planned, and the U.S. military expects to make the program an ongoing effort if it proves successful, he said.

Mongolian Army Col. Bayar Batzorig from the Defense Ministry's Foreign Cooperation Department said he's delighted to see the Mongolian army expand its peacekeeping capabilities and assume a larger role in peacekeeping efforts around the world.

In addition to providing troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, Mongolia also has peacekeepers serving in Congo, Sudan and Western Sahara, he said.

"We have made peacekeeping a priority because it is a way we as a nation can help other people," he said.

Besides peacekeeping discussions, Rumsfeld included talks about the United States' and Mongolia's military relationship, which he declared "excellent," and security issues in the region.

Rumsfeld also met with President Nambaryn Enkhbayar and Prime Minister Tsakhi Elbegdorj and about 180 Mongolian soldiers recently returned from deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. defense secretary also toured a Mongolian monastery.

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Donald H. Rumsfeld

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Background Note on Mongolia

Click photo for screen-resolution imageDefense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld departs the Gandan Monastery from Coijamts, Head Lama, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, Oct. 22. The U.S. defense secretary is the first U.S. defense secretary to visit Mongolia. Photo by Master Sgt. James M. Bowman, USAF  
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