Georgia to Become Biggest Non-NATO Contributor to ISAF
By Ernest Petrosyan
Wednesday, December 21The Georgian parliament is about to approve President Mikheil Saakashvili’s request on Tuesday to increase Georgian military involvement in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan by an additional battalion on top of the 936 Georgian soldiers who already serve as part of the NATO-led ISAF.
After sending an additional battalion [749 soldiers] – Georgia will become the largest non-NATO contributor state to the ISAF mission with a total of 1,685 troops. Australia is currently the largest non-NATO contributor with 1,550 soldiers on the ground.
The Georgian contingent in Afghanistan has lost a total of ten soldiers as yet – all in the Helmand province.
Georgia’s first contribution to this operation came in 2004 when 50 soldiers were briefly deployed in the country under German command as part of ensuring security during the presidential elections.
In November, 2009 Georgia increased its contingent by 173 soldiers in Kabul under the French command and in the following year Georgia increased its presence in Afghanistan by sending an infantry battalion to the Helmand province serving alongside US marines.
Georgia also sent 11 military instructors to Kandahar under the French command earlier this year.
Praising Georgia for its essential contribution to the ISAF mission, NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said while visiting Tbilisi in November that the participation in the Afghan operation and NATO membership are not directly linked.
“The Georgian contribution to our operation in Afghanistan also helps to improve interoperability between Georgian armed forces and NATO armed forces. But having said that I would also like to stress that there is no direct link between contributions to our operations and future membership of NATO; it is one factor, but there are many elements that have to be fulfilled before membership can materialize,” Rasmussen said on November 9.