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More Georgians Killed in Afghanistan

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, October 4
Four Georgian soldiers were killed in Afghanistan by an exploding mine according to an official statement by the Georgian Defense Ministry, on October 1.

The latest deaths bring to five the number of Georgian soldiers killed in Afghanistan since joining the NATO-led operation in November, 2009. Georgia suffered its first casualty in early September. At least three Georgian soldiers have been wounded. The Georgian Ministry of Defense released the names of four soldiers killed in the recent incident - Col. Ramaz Gogiashvili, Sergeant Davit Tsetskhladze, Corporal Giorgi Kolkhitashvili and Corporal Nugzar Kalandadze. The soldiers’ bodies have already been transported to Georgia, to their families.

“Their sacrifice will not be in vain. We are making progress in Afghanistan and we will stay as long as it takes to finish our job to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for terrorists. I can assure you that NATO also stands firm in its commitment to Georgia. I highly appreciate your dedication to our common security, which is a testimony of the strong partnership between Georgia and NATO. For this I am very grateful,” NATO Secretary General, Anders Fog Rasmussen stated during his visit to Georgia on October 1.

President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili expressed his condolences to the families of the killed servicemen and commented that it would be a great mistake to limit Georgia’s interests to those only within the country's borders. “Georgian soldiers are in Afghanistan first and foremost fighting for Georgia’s national interests. It would be a great mistake to limit Georgia’s interests only by our borders when a global political struggle is underway against us. We have international interests; we have our allies and friends. When I was sending soldiers to Afghanistan I talked to them – of course, they fully acknowledge the risk; they feel proud and dignified, because they are fighting first of all, for the national interests of Georgia,” Saakashvili stated.

Members of the Georgian opposition have a different attitude towards the authority’s activities regarding participation in peace operations. “Four Georgians have been killed in Afghanistan. We offer our condolences to the families of the heroes. Today all Georgia speaks for them; however their merit will never be forgotten. Unfortunately, the cynical attitude of our authorities towards their heroism does not give such hope,” read the statement of the oppositional party We Ourselves.

There are varied opinions among Georgian analysts regarding the participation of Georgian soldiers in Afghanistan peace operations. “I have always supported Georgia’s participation in peace operations. However our participation in the Afghanistan peace operation is a bit surprising, as the authority of Afghanistan does not recognise territorial integrity of Georgia. And just somebody explain to me why should we go there and be killed in their operations? Afghanistan is a risky country and being there carries significant threats,” analyst Kakha Katsitadze said.

It is difficult that Georgian soldiers are being killed there, however it is a sacrifice our country has to deliver, analyst Giorgi Melitauri commented, saying, “Participation in these kinds of operations is very important even for the soldiers. When you want to be a member of NATO and have complete integration into Euro–Atlantic structures, you should help the coalition countries and not just expect their support.”