By John D. Banusiewicz
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, Oct. 11, 2014 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel yesterday reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to its strategic relationship with Colombia, noting that as the South American nation moves toward ending a half century of conflict, it will become an increasingly important player on the world stage.
Speaking at a news conference with Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon at Colombia’s Tolemaida military base, Hagel noted that his day had included a meeting with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and the nation’s military leaders, as well as a military capabilities demonstration.
“I very much appreciated the day I've had an opportunity to spend with you and your forces, your leaders,” Hagel said to Pinzon. “It culminated in a very impressive show this afternoon, focusing on the capabilities of your military. And I want to congratulate all of you, and all of those who participated.”
Strong and continued support
The United States remains “absolutely committed” to its special strategic partnership with Colombia, the secretary said, and that commitment includes “strong and continued support” for Colombia’s ongoing campaign to defeat the terrorist organization known as FARC.
“As Colombia moves toward ending half a century of conflict,” he said, “the United States will continue to be steadfast in our support for the Colombian government in the negotiations to achieve a just and lasting peace.”
During their meeting, Hagel said, he and Pinzon discussed Colombia's regional and global leadership including its commitment to sharing its impressive defense capabilities and training with the nations of Latin America and the world.
Broader global engagement
“Colombia continues to expand its role as a security exporter, having helped train tens of thousands of security personnel for more than 40 nations,” the secretary said. “As the conflict in Colombia winds down, the international community will benefit from Colombia's even broader global engagement.”
During his visit to Colombia, Hagel noted, he met with U.S. Special Forces troops and aviation specialists who have worked closely there with their Colombian counterparts. “Their work is critical to our partnership,” he added. “And through initiatives such as our Joint Action Plan on Regional Security Cooperation, Colombia and the United States will continue to work together to build security across this hemisphere and beyond.”
Colombia was the first stop for Hagel on a six-day, three-nation trip to South America that will include attending the Conference of the Defense Ministers of the Americas.