USA — Partnerships ‘Vital’ to Peace, Stability, Mullen Says

WASHINGTON — Mil­i­tary part­ner­ships between the Unit­ed States and Colom­bia are “absolute­ly vital” to glob­al peace and secu­ri­ty, the nation’s top mil­i­tary offi­cer said yes­ter­day.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke to grad­u­ates of the Colom­bian naval cadet school in Carte­ge­na, Colom­bia.

Mullen was in Colom­bia to reaf­firm Washington’s com­mit­ment to the country’s effort to counter the ille­gal drug trade, as well as to cel­e­brate the 75th anniver­sary of the country’s naval acad­e­my.

“Our nations face many, many chal­lenges, and … part­ner­ships, exer­cis­es and joint oper­a­tions we share are absolute­ly vital to the world we live in,” Mullen said at the cer­e­mo­ny.

“Our abil­i­ty to engage and under­stand one anoth­er is the most impor­tant way we can achieve long-last­ing peace and sta­bil­i­ty in our world,” he added. “We must build strong part­ner­ships with our neigh­bors.”

Colombia’s part­ner­ship is impor­tant to the Unit­ed States, Mullen said. He cit­ed the country’s grow­ing role in inter­na­tion­al secu­ri­ty, not­ing its ongo­ing com­mit­ment to the Unit­ed Nations mis­sion on the Sinai Penin­su­la in Egypt. Such com­mit­ments “cer­tain­ly demon­strate Colombia’s grow­ing role in glob­al secu­ri­ty,” he said.

Mullen also laud­ed Colombia’s sup­port in relief efforts in earth­quake-rav­aged Haiti ear­li­er this year. “Every­one joined togeth­er to focus on how our nations could help the peo­ple of Haiti,” he not­ed.

The admi­ral also acknowl­edged gains the two nations have made against drug traf­fick­ing in the region, call­ing ter­ror­ism as “one of our most sig­nif­i­cant mutu­al chal­lenges.”

“I see the same kinds of chal­lenges in Afghanistan, and I also see them in Mex­i­co,” he said in a news con­fer­ence yes­ter­day fol­low­ing the grad­u­a­tion. “And there’s a great deal to be learned from the suc­cess that has been seen here in Colom­bia. Still, there are con­ven­tion­al chal­lenges here in the region, and they poten­tial­ly affect us all in the hemi­sphere.”

Mullen praised Colom­bian Pres­i­dent Alvaro Uribe for his lead­er­ship and work to achieve secu­ri­ty for his peo­ple. Mullen also said he looks for­ward to build­ing on the U.S.-Colombian part­ner­ship under Pres­i­dent-elect Juan Manuel San­tos, who takes office in August.

“So whether we are deliv­er­ing human­i­tar­i­an aid, fight­ing ter­ror­ism or res­cu­ing hostages, only togeth­er will we over­come the chal­lenges of our time,” the chair­man said.

Mullen urged the cadets to lis­ten, learn and lead, three words he says are impor­tant for every­one in uni­form to under­stand and prac­tice.

“Only by learn­ing from each oth­er can we under­stand how our capa­bil­i­ties com­ple­ment each oth­er, and only then can we lead,” he explained. “The Unit­ed States and many oth­er nations are cer­tain­ly learn­ing a lot from Colom­bia.”

The ulti­mate goal for Colombia’s gov­ern­ment, Mullen said, is to care for its peo­ple. Pro­vid­ing bet­ter liv­ing stan­dards, cre­at­ing jobs and improv­ing edu­ca­tion oppor­tu­ni­ties are the goal of any demo­c­ra­t­ic nation, he said.

“In the end, most gov­ern­ments want to take care of their peo­ple, pro­vid­ing them a bet­ter stan­dard of liv­ing, jobs and edu­ca­tion,” Mullen said dur­ing the cer­e­mo­ny. “Par­ents every­where want to raise their chil­dren in peace and pro­vide them a bet­ter stan­dard of liv­ing than they had them­selves. These are our com­mon ideals, our com­mon goals [and] sim­ple con­cepts that are cru­cial foun­da­tions to last­ing friend­ships and a sta­ble econ­o­my.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)