Remarks by Ambassador Peter Haas at Defense Service Command and Staff College

July 30, 2023

As prepared for delivery

Good afternoon.

It’s an honor to be here with you today.  I want to thank Major General Rahman for organizing this event.

I’m especially pleased to meet such a distinguished group of officers whose work is so important for advancing defense and foreign policy here in Bangladesh.

I also want to take a moment to recognize you for the work you do supporting the United Nations Peacekeeping Operations around the world.

The international reputation you have developed as the largest contributor of personnel to supporting peace is impressive.

I also know how hard you worked to be selected to attend this course and, that each of you has a history of service and a high degree of loyalty to your nation and the Bangladeshi people.

That is fortunate because upon graduation from this course, you will be asked to perform a range of duties more complex and challenging than at any time in recent memory.

So, I’m thrilled to be here to support the work that you do.  We want to see closer collaboration between our militaries and countries.

Today, I want to give you a sense of our vision for U.S.-Bangladesh relations, and how we see them benefitting not just our two peoples, but the Indo-Pacific region more broadly.

This vision is laid out in five general goals.  I’d like to talk with you this afternoon briefly about these goals and about how our team at the U.S. Embassy works with the Government and people of Bangladesh to realize them.

Our first goal is to support a peaceful and stable Bangladesh.

We are committed to working together to ensure that the Indo-Pacific region remains free, open, peaceful, and secure.

Under these conditions, the people of our two countries, and the rest of the region, can pursue their individual and collective aspirations.

To this end, the U.S. military regularly works with the Bangladesh military to strengthen defense readiness and to reinforce the partnership between our military forces at every level.

At the strategic level, last September, Bangladesh hosted the 46th annual Indo-Pacific Armies Management Seminar in Dhaka.

This gathering was conducted in cooperation with the U.S. Army and was the largest land forces conference in the region.  It provided a forum for senior level officers from the Indo-Pacific’s regional land forces to exchange views and ideas.

Operationally, the United States has provided Bangladesh numerous new military capabilities to support the Army, Navy, Air Force and Special Operations units.

We help build Bangladesh’s capabilities primarily  through grant programs such as Foreign Military Financing, or FMF, and the Global Peacekeeping Operations Initiative.

The key point is these are grants and not loans.

To name a few capabilities, we have provided Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) armored vehicles and bomb robots that help protect Bangladesh’s peacekeepers, additional capabilities include frigates like the Somudra Joy and Somudra Avijan, and four C-130B aircraft.

Some of you in this room probably came from serving on these platforms.

Under U.S. government-provided grant programs, the Bangladesh Navy and Coast Guard have received three different types of patrol boats to help them protect the territorial waters of Bangladesh.

This past year we also delivered small Unmanned Aerial Systems to the SWADS and Para Commandos.  The U.S. has also provided these special operations units with modern weapons, ammunition, body armor, advanced radio systems, and first aid equipment.

Over the next year we expect to deliver the highly capable Blackjack UAS, 35-foot SAFE Patrol Boats, and additional Zodiac Rigid Hull Boats.

These systems will help Bangladesh conduct UN missions and defend its sovereignty.

The United States is ready to provide Bangladesh with more advanced capabilities through Foreign Military Sales when the time is right.  A mutually concluded General Security of Military Information Agreement – known as a GSOMIA – is foundational to making that happen.

Along with these deliveries, and at the tactical level, U.S. special operations units continue to provide training to the SWADS and Para Commandos through the Tiger Shark series of joint exercises.  Our armies exercise together through Tiger Lightning, our air forces through Cope South, and our navies through the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training CARAT exercise.

Additionally, our countries continue to work together in a combined exercise called the Disaster Response Exercise and Exchange – or “DREE” – to elevate our joint ability to respond to natural disasters.

As a matter of fact, Bangladeshi and American teams just conducted the 2023 DREE on the island of Guam earlier this month.

We are also encouraged that Bangladesh’s Indo-Pacific Outlook declares Bangladesh’s vision for a “free, open, peaceful, secure, and inclusive Indo-Pacific for the shared prosperity for all.”

There is much in the Outlook that overlaps with our own vision for the Indo-Pacific, particularly the importance of upholding freedom of navigation and overflight; promoting an open, transparent, rules-based multilateral system rooted in the principals of the UN charter; and significant discussion of environmental resilience.

Our second goal is a Bangladesh that is committed to democracy, transparency, pluralism, tolerance, good governance, and respect for human rights.

Simply put, democracies do a better job of protecting human rights and generating and sustaining prosperity than other governance regimes.

This goal is particularly relevant as we look toward the upcoming national elections.

I want to make one thing very clear:  the United States does not favor any particular political party.

The United States supports free and fair elections conducted in accordance with international standards.

Ensuring free and fair elections is everyone’s responsibility.

From the Election Commission to the government, from the media to law enforcement agencies, from civil society to political parties, everyone has an important role to play.

If any one of them fails to fulfill their responsibility or if any one of them prevents another from fulfilling their responsibility, free and fair elections become impossible.  Incidents of harassment and intimidation of civil society and the media, as well as violent clashes at political rallies and demonstrations here in Bangladesh, remind us of this fact.

It is important for everyone to respect the rule of law and to refrain from violence, harassment, and intimidation.

As many of you may know, we announced a new visa policy in May to support Bangladesh’s stated goal of free and fair elections.  This visa restriction policy would affect any individuals that attempt to impede a free and fair election.

People of Bangladesh and throughout the world work hard to realize the dream of a better life for themselves and their families.  Free and fair elections provide citizens the freedom to shape their own destinies.

Our third goal is to support Bangladesh in its endeavor to be a socially and environmentally resilient country.

Addressing climate change is a core priority for the Biden administration.

While breathtaking in its beauty, Bangladesh’s geography on a low-lying river delta and with a long coastline and large floodplains, makes it vulnerable to the effects of climate change and natural disasters.

The United States applauds Bangladesh’s leadership in addressing climate change and we continue to partner with Bangladesh to meet the challenge.

At the UN General Assembly in September 2022, President Biden announced a quadrupling of the U.S. international climate finance pledge, which included the largest U.S. commitment ever made to reduce the impact on those most vulnerable to climate change worldwide.

The U.S. Embassy has over 60 ongoing efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change in Bangladesh.  They address issues such as food security, where we are partnering with Bangladesh to develop crops that are more resistant to saltwater intrusion.

We are developing nature-based solutions to help slow the effects of sea level rise by creating natural barriers which utilize native species of plants and trees.  The United States is fully committed to working with Bangladesh to deliver on the mandate from COP27 on loss and damage funding arrangements, which includes establishing a fund.

We are providing technical assistance in areas such as methane abatement, supporting Bangladesh’s commitments under the Global Methane Pledge.

In the energy sector, the United States is working with Bangladesh in several areas to develop a realistic transition away from carbon-intensive power generation including smart grid development, assessment of solar and wind energy resources, capacity building, and access to finance to name a few.

Our fourth goal is for a sustainable and broadly shared prosperity, and improved labor standards that expand and diversify Bangladesh’s economy and open it to greater regional and global trade and connectivity.

First, we celebrate and are proud to have been a part of Bangladesh’s tangible economic achievements.

In just the past 20 years, the number of people living below the national poverty line in this country has been cut in half.

That is roughly 40 million people who have risen out of poverty. Estimated poverty went from 13.47 percent in 2016 to 10.44 in 2022, lifting more than five million people out of poverty.

The United States is proud to have partnered with Bangladesh during this journey by providing over $8 billion in assistance and serving as one of the largest sources of foreign direct investment.  Furthermore, the United States is Bangladesh’s single largest export market, providing Bangladesh a steady source of revenue.

With regards to economic matters, my message is simple:  I am convinced there is impressive potential for substantial and quick progress on economic issues that benefit both our countries.

Our fifth goal is for Bangladesh to meet international standards for humanitarian protection of the Rohingya refugees and continue to host them until a safe, voluntary, and dignified return to Burma is possible.

We are approaching the six-year anniversary of the genocide and crimes against humanity against Rohingya and their flight from Burma to Bangladesh.

During this time, Bangladesh has shown incredible generosity and compassion in welcoming them into the country and giving them shelter.

In support of this incredible hospitality, the United States has provided more than $2.1 billion in humanitarian assistance to help both Rohingya refugees and host communities in Bangladesh, Burma, and the region.

We hope that Rohingya will soon be able to return to their native land in a safe and dignified manner.

Unfortunately, conditions in Burma do not yet allow for a safe, voluntary, dignified, and sustainable return.

However, we are pleased to be coordinating with the Government of Bangladesh and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to establish a resettlement program that will enable the most vulnerable Rohingya refugees to relocate to the United States.  Other countries are working with us to establish similar programs.

This reflects the United States’ longstanding leadership on refugee resettlement in the face of an unprecedented displacement crisis.


The United States and our team at the U.S. Embassy celebrate our more than 50 years of diplomatic relations with Bangladesh.  However, while we should be proud of our history together, there remains so much more than we can do.

Although there will be challenges in the coming years, given the challenges that Bangladesh has overcome during its first half century, I am confident that it will continue to overcome through the next half century and beyond.

Thank you very much.