By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, July 6Leading western countries are decreasing their contingents of armed forces in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Georgia intends to double its military contingent there. Of course this step is not a popular one among the Georgian population and the opposition spectrum is particularly critical of the move. Some of them openly criticize this step of the ruling administration, stating that it is only motivated by their wish to keep the Saakashvili governance in the country. The Republican Party recently released a statement, demanding the withdrawal of Georgian troops from Afghanistan. This position is reinforced by the decision of US, French and British governments to start withdrawing their forces from Afghanistan, to be finished by 2014. It is worth remembering that the Republican Party in Georgia actively supported the involvement of Georgian militaries in the peacekeeping operations in anti terrorist operations. They consider this step as a manifestation of Georgia’s commitments to its western dream. There are two major reasons for supporting this move. First it was Georgia's willingness to show to the west that it wants to join the Euro-Atlantic alliance and thus play its part in the international mission of this organization. The second reason was the possibility for Georgian soldiers to learn professional skills and valuable experience from western allies.
Today Republicans as well as some other opposition forces are expressing their position, thinking that Georgia’s participation in the peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan is needed for the ruling party to strengthen its leadership in Georgia. By doing so, the ruling administration wants to neutralize western pressure and demands for more democracy in the country. The Republicans think that Georgia has to start decreasing its presence in Afghanistan in the same proportion as the leading western countries are doing. Some independent analysts think that by increasing the contingent in Afghanistan, Georgia on one hand wants to manifest its loyalty to the IFES operations and safeguard its leadership from any western discontent.
Opposition forces in Georgia think that this issue should unite not only political parties but also media, NGOs, analysts and the whole society. Georgia has already lost 8 soldiers in the distant conflict while the number of wounded is unknown as the Ministry of Defence refuses to release the information. There is one more thing to consider, and that is the soldiers themselves. Georgia sends volunteers in to Afghanistan who agree to this risky mission in return for a high salary (according to Georgian standards) and some benefits with which they can support their families. Will soldiers be happy at losing this lucrative, yet terribly dangerous, opportunity?