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Military contingent in Afghanistan to be increased

By Messenger Staff
Monday, December 19
On December 16 president Saakashvili requested that the parliament endorse sending to Afghanistan as part of the ISAF mission yet another infantry battalion. The number of Georgian soldiers serving in Afghanistan is considerable enough (925) and any decision to increase the contingent causes controversy. However, the government, as well as part of the opposition and some analysts, believes that the presence of Georgian soldiers in Afghanistan is vitally important for Georgia.

Those who challenge the presence of Georgian soldiers in Afghanistan bring the following arguments. Firstly, already several Georgian servicemen were killed and more wounded so the country has casualties from the conflict. Secondly, Georgia can become a target of terrorist attacks and Georgia has not enough resources, training or capability to prevent such attacks. Those who support increasing the number of troops argue that Georgia should not only be a consumer of peace and security but it should participate in achieving this as well. Besides Georgian soldiers receive serious combat experience. Both these arguments should eventually bring Georgia towards NATO. Besides all cooperation with NATO countries is indirect pressure on Russia. So, the majority of opposition members and analysts positively assess Georgian presence in Afghanistan. There are some debates however about how many Georgian soldiers should be in Afghanistan. Proportionate to the population, Georgia has the highest number of soldiers in Afghanistan. Because of this, some analysts doubt whether there is any necessity to increase the number of servicemen there. However, the fact is that Georgia by increasing the number Georgia will once again demonstrate its desire to join NATO.

Tbilisi is putting its hopes on the NATO Chicago summit to be held next year. At that time, Georgia hopes to be granted a MAP. So far NATO has consistently confirmed that it will accept Georgia into the organization. However Russia opposes such developments and even threatens the west and Georgia that it would never allow NATO to expand to Georgia. Meanwhile the opposition thinks that Georgia’s participation in ISAF operations should not be an indulgence for the government and that it should spend more time paying attention to the democratic principles put forward by NATO instead. The west demands that Georgia continues democratic reforms and that it is necessary to hold the forthcoming parliamentary elections as fairly as possible.

The Georgian opposition hopes that through cooperation with NATO operations, the country will follow a democratic path and the west should confirm that it supports democratic development and not individuals.