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US diplomat praises Georgia and its troops

By Etuna Tsotniashvili
Tuesday, February 23
The Georgian armed forces will play a significant role in contributing to world security, U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Ambassador Richard Holbrooke stated yesterday at the Krtsanisi National Training Centre outside Tbilisi, where Georgian troops are undergoing training for deployment in Afghanistan.

Ambassador Holbrooke emphasised that it is not easy for a small country to take such a decision, and added that he respects the Georgian people for their brave character. He expressed his gratitude to Georgia on behalf of the US people and the whole world for the decision to send an additional battalion to Afghanistan, adding that the exercises held at the training centre had hugely impressed him.

President Saakashvili, who accompanied Ambassador Holbrooke at the training centre, emphasised the importance of sending Georgian troops to Afghanistan, stating that the deployment of our country’s troops in Afghanistan is a “patriotic deed”. He added that it will not be an easy mission and all the soldiers involved are participating voluntarily, knowing what is at stake.

“I want to tell you that this will be a very difficult mission,” Saakashvili said. “Not only do the fate of Afghanistan and the coalition countries depend on the success of this operation, the resolving of many of our own issues also depends on the success of our allies and friends,” the President said. “We and their families worry about the troops' safety. But we understand very well that we are engaged in this battle with allies in order to achieve our common goals, and will not retreat,” Saakashvili said. Georgia has already deployed 175 servicemen to Afghanistan and plans to send a further battalion this spring.

Yesterday the Ministry of Foreign Affairs commented on Holbrooke’s visit. Deputy Foreign Minister Nino Kalandadze stated at a briefing that the Georgian President will propose to Richard Holbrooke that Georgia be used for the transit of NATO supplies to Afghanistan. She said that this project has not been intensively discussed since it was first raised by the Georgian authorities, but will be officially proposed if the United States administration and the alliance show an interest in it.

”Ambassador Holbrooke’s visit emphasises the extent of cooperation between Georgia and the United States,” Kalandadze said, adding that the assessment of the Georgian peacekeepers for the Afghan mission by the U.S. envoy was very important.

Richard Holbrooke concluded his two-day visit to Georgia yesterday.