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New agreement expands military training with Dominicans

Leaders from the U.S. and the Dominican Republic signed a deal to boost its military partnership, which could leave Marines and other troops regularly training in the small Caribbean country as leaders officials from both nations battletry to stop transnational organized crime.

The agreement, which still mustneeds to be ratified by the Dominican Republic legislative branch, simplifies the coordination needed for U.S. troops and their equipment to temporarily base there during a training exercise, said Jose Ruiz, a spokesman for U.S. Southern Command. The agreement was signed in a Jan. 20 agreement ceremony attended by Gen. John Kelly, head of SOUTHCOM, and Dominican defense minister Lt. Gen. William Muñoz, Dominican Today reported.

The Dominican Republic faces similar challenges as other Caribbean and Central Americans countries, Ruiz said. U.S. and Dominican troops train together to detect and disrupt illicit trafficking or prepare for disaster relief operations, he said. Those events include interdiction operations, joint and interagency operations, maintenance, logistics, communications, intelligence, and search and rescue, he said.

"We anticipate an increase in our future engagements with the Dominican Republic, including co-hosted exercises, subject matter expert exchanges, training activities, seminars and conferences," Ruiz said. "Patrol and interdiction operations, joint and interagency operations, maintenance, logistics, communications, intelligence, and search and rescue are examples of some of the areas we cover during training."

Troops from across the U.S. forces could be tapped to train with the Dominicans, he said. The length of the training and number of personnel and equipment involved would vary by based on the exercise. During a large-scale humanitarian assistance training exercise, it could be upwards of 800 troops, he said. But most of the teams who train there would be made up of as few as a half a dozen troops, he said.

The troops could stay aboard local military installations or in local lodging facilities, he added.

"The Dominican Republic is, without a doubt, one of our committed and respected military partners," Ruiz said. "The defense cooperation activities that'll follow ratification of the SOFA will only involve visits that are temporary in nature and mutually agreed upon."

In 2013, about a sixth of the cocaine that reached North America and Europe was shipped through Hispaniola, the island group shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Dominican leaders are working to counter that transnational crime through training with partners across the Americas, Ruiz said.

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