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Georgian mission in Afghanistan

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, November 18
On November 16 a special ceremony was held to mark the sending of the first Georgian regiment to Afghanistan to participate in the ISAF operations. 170 Georgian soldiers from the 23rd brigade are being sent, and will serve under the command of the French contingent. Next year Georgia’s military involvement in Afghanistan will increase further.

The Georgian population is divided over participation in the Afghanistan mission. Some people think that Georgia should have no interest at all in participating. Others however think that it is necessary for the country to support its allies and has no alternative.

This will not be the first time Georgians have fought in Afghanistan. In previous centuries Georgian soldiers and even kings fought there in support of Iran. Between 1979 and 1989 more than 5,000 Georgians participated in the military operations conducted by Soviet forces there and around 3,000 from the security services, militia and other organisations also participated in Soviet-led Afghan adventures. In these 10 years 128 Georgians were killed, 7 went missing in action and 300 were seriously injured.

20 years have passed since then and now independent Georgia is sending troops to Afghanistan. It should be noted however that in 2004 50 Georgian servicemen were stationed in Kabul for several months as a security force during the Presidential elections there. Indeed Georgia is already regarded as an ISAF participant, but this is because a Georgian doctor has served in a Lithuanian regiment in Afghanistan.

In February 2010 the 31st infantry battalion, containing 725 servicemen, will also join the ISAF operation. They will serve under the command of American marine forces in the south east of Afghanistan. It is known that this is a rather dangerous region where Taleban and Al-Qaeda groups are still active. Eventually the Georgian contingent in Afghanistan will reach around 900 servicemen, who are expected to stay for three years. Maybe 900 is not a large number but everything is relative. For instance NATO member the Czech Republic has 490 men there, Turkey 725, Romania 730, Greece 130 and Belgium 390. The 900 men from the Georgian armed forces make up around 5-6% of the total number of combatants in the Georgian army.

Those critical of this deployment say that sending troops to Afghanistan might make Georgia a target of terrorist attack. They also say that the mission is very risky and we can expect a serious death toll. On the other hand those who support it think that it is very important for our troops to gain experience of modern warfare which will prove very valuable for our country when it is needed, though this is also, by definition, an equally pessimistic view of Georgia’s future.

Georgia’s presence in Afghanistan is one more confirmation of its chosen foreign policy direction, its commitment to join NATO and its desire to present itself as having a democratic orientation. Whether this actually has anything to do with the actual issues in Afghanistan though is another question.