So, SecDef Donald Rumsfeld's come and gone. And he got a horse in the deal, too. (He named the horse Montana, so much does Mongolia remind him of Montana.--Ah, how that warms the cockles of my Montanan/Mongolian heart!) .
Anyway, the US-Mongolia relationship seems to be ever tightening--something that's mutually beneficial to both. Mongolia's a rising star in peace-keeping, and one that's unabashadly friendly to America--somehwat of a rarity these days. From a WaPo
story, we learn of the benefits to both. For America, there's the need for allies who are proactive with regard to active peacekeeping and (see more on this in the article) anti-terrorism:
On what he said was the first visit by U.S. defense secretary to Mongolia, Rumsfeld sought to encourage Mongolia's efforts to build a peacekeeping force with global reach.
"If there's anything that's clear in the 21st century it's that the world needs peacekeepers," Rumsfeld said at a news conference with his Mongolian counterpart, Sharavdorj.
..."I congratulate the people of Mongolia, the government and the armed forces of Mongolia for selecting that (peacekeeping) as a principle aspect of their military focus, and certainly the United States is anxious and willing and ready to be of assistance," Rumsfeld said.
For Mongolia, there's the need for foreign assistance and constructive attention from movers and shakers in the geopolitical realm:
A contingent of six U.S. Marines is working closely with the Mongolian Army, which numbers 11,000. The Pentagon is planning to supply the army with body armor and other equipment to help Mongolians design a more modern force proficient in peacekeeping duties.
Sandwiched between Russia and China, Mongolia is eager for closer military-to-military relations with the U.S. and a measure of international prestige for a focus on peacekeeping. Peacekeeping can also prove lucrative; those missions placed under U.N. control pay relatively well.
Also of note in the story, Rumsfelds comments regarding two recently-minted Mongolian heros:
Rumsfeld also spoke to a group of 180 Mongolian soldiers who had served in either Iraq or Afghanistan in recent years.
He told them that history would look kindly on their efforts and he thanked them for their contributions.
"It's a privilege to be able to look you in the eye and say thank you," Rumsfeld said.
He singled out two soldiers, Sgt. Azzya and Sgt. Sambuu-Yondon. They were on a patrol near Hilla, Iraq, in February 2004 when they fired on and killed the driver of a truck who turned out to be a suicide bomber. Their action apparently saved a number of lives of Mongolian and other coalition troops.
Rumsfeld's visit is no doubt heartening to many Mongolia watchers. But the next state visit looks to be billed even better. President Bush himself. Mongol's eyes were bright upon hearing this news. Perhaps a trip to Mongolia to see Bush in Mongol's homeland? Depends on how much our readers donate :)