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US support for Georgian military starts war of words

By Salome Modebadze
Tuesday, March 30
On March 29 Foreign Minister of Georgia Grigol Vashadze made a statement concerning the US Congress's declaration that Tbilisi will receive financial support for participating in the Afghan mission.

“The USA will make a final decision about military support when Congress has finished its discussions. Georgia will receive financial support for participating in the Afghan mission and this is not a sensation! The USA had previously encouraged the armies of Georgia and the Baltic States to engage in joint military activities with the USA and other NATO countries,” Vashadze said after a meeting with Audronius Azubalis, the Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs. “We have been carrying out quite fruitful cooperation with the Pentagon and training will take place under the umbrella of NATO in which the members of the Alliance will participate,” the Lithuanian FM added.

However the Labour Party held a special press conference yesterday at which party leader Shalva Natelashvili condemned the US financing the training of the Georgian soldiers going to Afghanistan. “The plan to deploy American servicemen on Georgian territory demonstrates that there is an agreement between Saakashvili’s regime, Russia and the USA to divide up the country,” Natelashvili said, stressing that he is against any foreign army entering the country. “We demand that the Russian and American forces leave our country along with Mikheil Saakashvili himself. These are the forces which have taken away not only our independence but our historic territories. We appeal to all the other political parties in Georgia to state specific opinions on this issue. Saakashvili has filled the Pentagon, Congress and the White House with appeals inviting others to rule our country in return for his personal safety,” he added.

Manana Manjgaladze, the President's Spokesperson, explained the statement made by the Pentagon. “The President of Georgia would like to stress that the USA is going to financially support the part of our Army participating in the Afghan operation by equipping them with the proper arms, as a sign of cooperation between two partner countries,” Manjgaladze said, explaining that this didn’t mean building military bases in Georgia as most people had previously thought.

Zurab Abashidze, political analyst, told The Messenger that Georgia has to make either bad or worse decisions. “Preparations for participating in the Afghan mission have been taking place for quite a long time. This process definitely poses some danger for us but this doesn’t mean that setting ourselves apart from the world will ever ensure safety. Georgia wants to be integrated in Euro-Atlantic structures thus it naturally has to be engaged in international processes. The European countries participating in the Afghan mission are neither happy nor eager to be facing danger either, and this whole operation will involve money and victims, but Georgia has more in common with Afghanistan than any of the European countries,” said Abashidze.

Georgia is among the six countries which will be granted USD 350 million between them by the USA Security Department to train troops for the Afghan mission. In Georgia's case this training is a specific part of the long-term obligation of the USA to help conduct Georgia's security reforms.