Little known about Georgian casualties in Afghanistan
By Messenger Staff
Thursday, March 15High-ranking military officials regularly boast of Georgia's participation in the ISAF mission in Afghanistan. They emphasize that Georgia has the highest number of soldiers per capita among non-NATO member countries. But information about the cost of Georgia's contribution – in human life – has been little discussed.
Since 2009, 15 Georgian soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan, with an unknown number wounded. Ruslan Meladze, Paata Kacharava, and Valiko Beraia were the most recent casualties, killed mere days after President Mikheil Saakashvili visited their base in Helmand province. No additional information about how, when, or under what circumstances they were killed is available. Officials call these men heroes who sacrificed their lives for their country, but have not made clear what form of compensation their families will receive. We known that soldiers are paid fairly well for their service – a corporal receives 600-700 GEL per month in Georgia and 700 USD or more in Afghanistan – but we do not know what becomes of their families, financially, when a potential breadwinner is lost.
There is also a lack of information concerning the wounded. Details only appear when a high-ranking Georgian or NATO official visits an injured soldier in hospital. There are rumors that several Georgian soldiers wounded in Afghanistan are being treated at the Gori military hospital, but little is known about their identities or what happened to them.
Many older people remember a similar situation in the Soviet Union, when the country was involved in a military operation in Afghanistan from 1979-1987; 121 Georgians were killed there. Information about their funerals was confidential (although this was no surprise as everything was confidential in the Soviet Union). How can the current situation be explained when we supposedly have such transparency in Georgia? Some analysts suggest that such an approach shows that defense ministry officials do not analyze each and every case of wounded soldiers so as to prevent further casualties.
Today, there are 935 Georgian soldiers serving in Afghanistan. The Saakashvili administration plans to increase that number up to 2000. Until recently, being deployed to Afghanistan was a voluntary decision made by each soldier; however, it has now become compulsory. As reports in the media suggest, soldiers who refuse to go to Afghanistan are fined and risk damaging their careers.
If Georgia is to continue volunteering its sons for war, the public must know exactly the consequences of that decision.