Now more than ever, a global demand for trained peacekeeping personnel has become an international priority. Delivering protection and security for the world’s most vulnerable; helping countries at war to stabilize and rebuild; providing justice and dignity to those in need—international peacekeepers are responsible for all of this and much more. I recently returned from Malaysia, where I participated in the opening ceremony of one of the world’s largest multinational peacekeeping exercises. The exercise, Keris Aman, was hosted by the government of Malaysia and sponsored by the U.S. Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI).
Assistant Secretary for State for Political-Military Affairs Puneet Talwar addresses the opening ceremony of exercise Keris Aman [U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal]
More than 900 men and women from 29 countries, including the United States, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Philippines, and Uruguay, participated in Keris Aman at Malaysia’s world-class peacekeeping training center. The exercise focused on developing many of the key skills essential to effective peacekeeping operations: including “cordon and search” training, field medical procedures, logistics support, and transportation operations.
Malaysia’s own dedication to peacekeeping is truly exceptional. In 1960, only three years after gaining its own independence, Malaysia sent its first group of military personnel to support the UN mission in the Republic of Congo. Since then, Malaysia has deployed tens of thousands of its troops to serve as peacekeepers in some of the most challenging war zones on earth -– from Sudan, to Lebanon, to Bosnia, to Timor-Leste. The bravery of Malaysia’s soldiers cannot be overstated. In 1993, two helicopters carrying American forces were shot down over Mogadishu -- Somalia’s capital city -- leaving U.S. soldiers trapped in hostile territory. As Americans bravely held their ground, Malaysian and Pakistani peacekeepers launched a mission to rescue the trapped soldiers. One Malaysian soldier and one Pakistani solider paid the ultimate price.
Soldiers from the Royal Brunei Armed forces practice patrolling in a simulated town during Keris Aman Military Exercise in Malaysia in August 2015 [U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal].
In addition to providing training for many of the peacekeeping forces in the region, Malaysia incorporates regional partners’ peacekeeping troops with their own forces to sponsor “co-deployments” in support of U.N. missions. Malaysia has also been a pioneer in efforts to integrate more women into peace operations. Female peacekeepers play an important role in peacekeeping by broadening the skill sets available within a mission, particularly by improving access and support for local women in post-conflict societies struggling to rebuild. We appreciate Malaysia’s continued work to widen the circle of nations working together in the service of international peace.
U.S. Army personnel from Hawaii Army National Guard demonstrate field medical techniques for a group of Malaysian military personnel at Keris Aman Military Exercise [U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal].
The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs is responsible for the management of GPOI, coordinating closely with partners throughout the U.S. government to develop regional program plans and to implement training and equipping activities. Established in 2005 as part of the U.S. contribution to the G8 Action Plan for Expanding Global Capability for Peace Support Operations, GPOI works to increase partner countries’ capacity to train and deploy national peacekeeping forces capable of meeting the ever-increasing demands of UN and regional peacekeeping missions.
During the exercise, I also had the opportunity to meet with U.S. Army personnel from U.S. Pacific Command, who do a great job helping us implement GPOI programs across the Asia-Pacific. Our world is one of increasingly sophisticated, diffuse threats — threats that demand international coalitions and international action. The U.S. Pacific Command’s team, in collaboration with regional peacekeeping partners, has responded to these demands and devoted themselves to building the capabilities of our partners worldwide; to strengthening the institutions that provide security; and to providing logistical support to peacekeepers on the ground. We are all safer because of their tremendous work.
Assistant Secretary of State for Political Affairs Talwar meets with U.S. Army soldiers participating in Keris Aman Military Exercise in Malaysia in August 2015 [U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal].
Since its establishment, GPOI has worked with partner countries around the world to build peacekeeping capacity, including Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chile, El Salvador, Malaysia, Serbia, and Vietnam. GPOI currently supports 51 partner countries, to build their own capacity for training through train-the-trainer and other capacity building activities, as well as facilitating the deployment of more than 197,000 personnel to peace operations around the world to date. GPOI training emphasizes critical peacekeeping principles, such as the protection of civilians, which includes prevention of gender-based violence and sexual exploitation and abuse. The program also supports UN efforts to increase the number of female peacekeepers, and has already trained more than 5,300 female peacekeepers.
Through international efforts to build peacekeeping capacity such as GPOI, we can help post-conflict countries recover and rebuild. Next month in New York, President Obama, the UN Secretary-General, and the leaders of Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Japan, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Rwanda, and Uruguay will co-host a peacekeeping summit to promote efforts to modernize and strengthen international peacekeeping operations. The United States has long been a steadfast supporter of UN peacekeeping operations and is working around the world to help build partnerships and capacities with other countries seeking to contribute to the cause of conflict prevention, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding.
About the Author: Puneet Talwar serves as the Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.
For More Information:
- Visit the Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI) section on our web page.
- Read Assistant Secretary Talwar’s Remarks at Opening Ceremony of Keris Aman.
- Follow Department of State Bureau of Political-Military Affairs on Twitter @StateDeptPM.