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The Mongolian and British armies have found a common purpose by working together

Mongolian State Honour Guard (Credit: dpa picture alliance archive / Alamy Stock Photo)

3 min read

Mongolian soldiers loved Yorkshire Tea. But it took some time for our British counterparts to get used to our salted milk tea. Making a hot drink for each other was our favourite way to decompress while we carried out our mission together in Kabul. But during the months-long deployments, Mongolians learnt more from British troops than how to make the perfect brew.

This year, Mongolia and the UK celebrate the 60th anniversary of our diplomatic relationship. The UK was the first Western country to establish diplomatic ties with Mongolia. Its diplomatic outpost also served as the only gateway to the West for Mongolians during most of the communist era. Mongolians remember the gesture, and we were delighted to serve shoulder-to-shoulder with British troops in Afghanistan.

Despite a population of only 3.5 million, Mongolia contributed more than 6,000 troops to Afghanistan in support of Nato operations. In December 2014, the Kabul Security Force (KSF) was set up to protect the more than 7,000 Nato advisers operating in the Afghan capital. The multinational force included soldiers from the UK, US, Denmark and Mongolia. All were under the command of a British brigadier general.

Mongolian and British armies share a strong sense of storied military tradition

The KSF was an underrated success. Alongside its key task of enhancing the security of Nato personnel within Kabul, it also provided a rapid military response to attacks throughout the city. 

Retrospectively, one of its main indirect contributions was in helping Mongolian soldiers learn to operate with the armies of Britain and our so-called ‘third neighbours’ – democratic countries outside our immediate two neighbours of Russia and China.

Mongolian and British armies share a strong sense of storied military tradition and a need to stay small and nimble. The British army is remarkable in instilling leadership and encouraging initiative in all ranks. Consistently punching above its weight despite the financial and size constraints is something Mongolians could learn from “the best small army in the world”.

Britain is also in the best position to help modernise the Mongolian army. By imparting their NCOs’ leadership and small unit tactics,  Britain has given a key edge to the Ukrainian army in successfully repelling one of the biggest forces in the world. As Mongolia is attempting to modernise its army, Britain’s experience in training the armies of Poland, Estonia and now Ukraine will be invaluable to us.

The history books show that, as early as 1287, Mongol ruler Arghun Khan sent an envoy to King Edward I to form a military alliance against the marauding Mamluks. 

More recently, the UK’s presence in Mongolia in the past 60 years has been instrumental in helping Mongolia towards a democratic future. We hope that British soldiers will continue to serve with us and acquire a taste for our salty cuppa

Tuvshinzaya Gantulga, former aide to the president of Mongolia

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