When many people think of Mongolia, they think of Genghis Khan, the legendary conqueror of the Eurasian landmass. But today, the country is establishing a global reputation for another reason: The Mongolian Armed Forces (MAF) are a significant contributor to global peace operations and Asian security cooperation. Thanks in part to security assistance provided though the U.S. Department of State’s Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI) in just over ten years, Mongolia has gone from deploying only five military observers in UN missions to deploying more than 1,000 personnel to support peace operations each year.
Now, Mongolia is working to train other countries to develop their own peacekeeping capabilities. The country recently co-hosted Khaan Quest, this year’s GPOI capstone exercise in the Asia-Pacific region. This U.S. partnership with Mongolia demonstrates that GPOI is an effective investment that not only sustainably builds peacekeeping capability, but also encourages regional security cooperation.
From Trainee to Trainer
Before becoming a GPOI partner in 2005, Mongolia had only five military personnel deployed in UN peace operations, all of whom served as observers. Today, thanks in part to training and equipment provided through GPOI, Mongolia has increased its commitment to 936 troops and eleven military experts deployed in six UN peace operations. Another 233 personnel support coalition operations in Afghanistan. Mongolia’s largest contingent serves in the austere northern sector of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), where they are consistently recognized by mission leadership, staff, and troop contributing countries as a top performing unit. Mongolia is also one of the most gender-integrated military forces involved in UN peace operations.
Mongolia exemplifies that GPOI is a partnership in which both countries are invested. In the last three years alone, Mongolia has spent over $10 million dollars of its own money in training center infrastructure improvements. Thanks to this investment and GPOI-funded initiatives, Mongolia met GPOI program criteria for self-sufficiency in training for peace operations in February 2016.
Khaan Quest 2016
In many ways, the size and scope of this year’s Khaan Quest exercise demonstrate how far our partnership with Mongolia has come. As GPOI’s capstone exercise in the Asia-Pacific region this year, Khaan Quest brought approximately 2,000 participants and observers from more than 40 different countries to the Five Hills training facility outside Ulaanbaatar. The two week exercise included field training events in a wide variety of activities, such as checkpoint operations, protection of civilians, medical first response, site protection, patrolling, counter-IED awareness and convoy operations. Over 500 of the participants will use these vital skills in the field when they deploy to UN peacekeeping missions in the next 18 months.
Khaan Quest also demonstrates the clear benefits of GPOI’s “train-the-trainer” approach. The exercises helped qualify 38 Mongolian and 20 international peacekeeping instructors. These new instructors will help move their own countries towards self-sufficiency in preparing for peace operations. Mongolian instructors who had been trained in previous GPOI exercises played a key role in this year’s Khaan Quest, constituting a plurality of the experts during staff officer training.
An Asia-Pacific Success Story
By enabling partners to deploy their troops in support of UN peacekeeping operations, GPOI promotes international peace and security, saving lives while reducing the burden on U.S. military forces, and helping countries at war stabilize and rebuild. GPOI is also helping to make global peacekeeping self-sufficient by helping countries like Mongolia to develop their own training capabilities. But as our partnership with Mongolia shows, the benefits of GPOI for the United States do not end there. By strengthening bilateral defense ties with an important Asian partner and encouraging regional security cooperation, GPOI contributes to our strategic interests in the Asia-Pacific region. We are proud to work with partners like Mongolia to advance the cause of peace in the region and around the world.
About the Authors: Matt Littlejohn and David Bartley serve on the Peace Operations Capacity Building Team in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.
For more information: