Facing a chronic shortage of foreign troops for peacekeeping missions, US President George Bush has decided to launch an international drive to boost the supply of available forces.
It calls for the United States to commit about $US660 million ($880 million) over the next five years to train, equip and provide logistical support to forces in nations willing to take part in peace operations.
The Global Peace Operations Initiative will be aimed largely at Africa. It will expand the peacekeeping skills of African forces and encourage international military exercises in the region, where US officials say much of the need exists.
But African forces developed under the program could be used in peace operations anywhere in the world, they said.
Pentagon officials stressed that Mr Bush wanted the plan to be a multinational push, with other countries contributing trainers and additional resources.
Many of the world's peacekeeping missions operate under the auspices of the United Nations, which now oversees more than 50,000 troops in 14 regions. The number is due to grow by about 20,000 as four more operations take shape in Haiti, Burundi, Sudan and Cyprus.
But efforts to meet this surge have been handicapped by the competing demands of US and NATO-led coalitions trying to stabilise Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans.
These operations have sapped troops and resources from the US, Canada and several European countries, which are the usual sources of support for UN peacekeeping missions.
"There is not enough capacity in the world to deal with the requirements," said the US Under-Secretary of Defence for Policy, Douglas Feith.
"Other countries have shown an interest in building up their peacekeeping forces, but they need help."
The Bush initiative's goal is to train about 75,000 additional foreign troops who could be sent on missions at short notice and perform a wide range of peacekeeping activities.
On Capitol Hill, a Democratic staff member with a Senate committee predicted the plan would receive broad bipartisan support. Several independent analysts also welcomed the initiative.
"This is an awakening for an administration that hadn't made peacekeeping a priority," said Victoria Holt, of the Henry L. Stimson Centre, a Washington research group. "They are recognising that if they want to have other countries participate in peacekeeping, they must provide more support."
Mr Bush's initiative stops short of establishing standing military units that would be devoted only to international peacekeeping.
It also makes no provision for creating forces within the US military that would be reserved for peacekeeping missions.
"We are always going to do our share of peacekeeping," said Joseph Collins, head of stability operations in the Defence Department.
"What we want to avoid is doing more than we have to."