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Georgia in Afghanistan: pros and cons

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, October 13
Georgia’s military presence in Afghanistan has recently become a burning issue for the Georgian political establishment and media. During a one month period Georgia has lost 5 military personnel in Afghanistan. Initially one, then on another occasion four more soldiers were killed when a mine exploded. There are many arguments on the issue as well as controversial comments; the Georgian population has varying levels of understanding of the facts as well as very mixed feelings about the situation. When, a few years ago, Georgia decided to send the military contingent to Afghanistan, the decision was not followed by any kind of significant protest from either society or political figures. In addition Georgians felt rather proud that our small country was sending third largest contingent to Afghanistan after the USA and Britain.

According to the Georgian ruling administration participation in the Afghanistan peacekeeping operation is essential for Georgia – it is the price the country has to pay for its NATO aspirations. Independent analyst Giorgi Tvadgiridze believes that we are obliged to participate in such missions to secure our safety. This is not a senseless sacrifice. This is not our soldiers’ loss in somebody else’s war. Journalist Giorgi Melitauri is of the opinion: “If you want to become a NATO member and integrate into Euro structures you should not only expect support from others yourself but you should be prepared to help,” and in addition Georgian soldiers gain valuable experience while in action there.

There are however challenges to this approach. Valeri Kvaratskhelia, a member of the Opposition with pro-Russian inclinations stated that Rasmussen’s visit to Georgia showed only one thing: that NATO cannot exercise anything serious against Russia; it has neither the will nor the capacity to do so. Kvaratskhelia thinks that it is humiliating for Georgia when NATO leaders say that the door is open but not invite you in, while you remain in front of the open door waiting for when they allow you to enter.

Some critics of the current administration think that the presence of Georgian soldiers in Afghanistan is needed not for the country but for the Saakashvili administration – in order for it to prolong its leadership. Some say that Georgia’s entry into NATO should not be dependent on the number of Georgian soldiers in Afghanistan but that it should be dependent on the fulfillment of demands for democracy and its development in the country.

Analyst Vladimir Socor thinks that unless something significant is adopted by NATO towards Georgia during the Lisbon summit, there will be huge frustration and it will be disappointing for NATO itself. So it is clear there is a diverse range of opinions. It is worth noting the results of a poll on the issue conducted by the Kviris Palitra newspaper. To the question should Georgia continue its participation in the Afghanistan peacekeeping mission, of the 404 respondents 14.3% said yes, 67.2% answered no, and 18.5% abstained.

While this might not be a statistically accurate professional poll, it shows the attitude of the average man in the street and this should be taken into account by the Georgian administration as well as NATO bosses.