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Georgian soldiers in Afghanistan praised after 7th casualty returns home

By Salome Modebadze
Thursday, March 17
On March 15, the Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili met General David Petraeus, Commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Discussing Georgia’s contribution to the Afghan mission, Petraeus praised Georgian soldiers for their contribution to the international military missions. Being familiar with the activities carried out by Georgian soldiers to the Iraq mission, the General highlighted how much they have done in such a hostile region. “And now they are doing the same in the Afghanistan province of Helmand,” he said and emphasized the bravery of the Georgian soldiers during their service in different missions.

“When I tried to put Georgians in some special conditions to prevent them from serious danger I remember how one of the officers stressed his great will in ensuring the security in Iraq,” Petraeus said highlighted Georgians’ merit in fighting against the violence. Petraeus said it was down to the Georgians’ success that the mission managed to return their functions to the Iraq people and “give them hopes which they had almost lost”.

President Saakashvili expressed his condolences for the death of Georgian corporal Valeri Verskiani serving in Helmand province. The corporal died from a serious injury in a mine explosion in Afghanistan while performing his duties. Calling it “his personal tragedy” Saakashvili emphasized that the mission carried out by professional Georgian troops is very important for the country. “The General Petraeus who leads a coalition of 47 states has told me that the Georgians are among the best soldiers who have ever served the mission. The service of Georgian units in Afghanistan is a matter of dignity and prestige for our country,” the President stated.

The body of the corporal arrived in Tbilisi International airport and was met by the Minister of Defense of Georgia, Bacho Akhalaia and the US Ambassador to Georgia John Bass. Expressing his condolence to the family of the dead corporal, Akhalaia spoke of a great loss for the whole country. The Ministry of Defense took the whole responsibility for covering the funeral expenses and the corporal was buried in his home village in Svaneti earlier Wednesday morning. The family of Verskiani will receive the state social allowance considered for such cases. With the latest death reported on March 14, the total number of Georgian soldiers killed in Afghanistan, since joining the NATO-led operation in November 2009 has increased to seven.

Military analyst Irakli Sesiashvili spoke of the necessity for participation in international missions in order to increase its chances of integration to NATO. “If Georgia wants to act as a civil country oriented on peace and stability it should definitely send its troops to the missions. Moreover the Georgian soldiers had better become familiar with NATO standards but it’s up to the Georgian Government to define how many troops to send there,” the analyst told us stressing the necessity for maintaining internal security.

Talking of the various political, economical and demographical problems Georgia is facing nowadays, Sesiashvili worried that President Saakashvili has been trying to obtain more “political scores” from the international society especially after the international isolation following the August War. “Lots of countries have expressed their objections to participation in the Afghan mission while Georgia has expressed full readiness to assist the NATO troops there,” he told us.