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Georgian death toll in ISAF mission hits 29

By Ana Robakidze
Monday, June 10
Seven servicemen were killed and 9 wounded as a suicide bomber detonated a truck full of explosives near a Georgian Military Base in Helmand Province, Afghanistan on June 6.

Shortly after the attack, the Georgian Ministry of Defense released a statement and said that “Georgian troops are fully in control of the operational situation in their area.”

In order to personally become familiar with the situation in Afghanistan, Minister of Defense of Georgia, Irakli Alasania, canceled an official visit to Brussels and arrived at the military base in Helmand. To discuss the current situation in Afghanistan and action plans, Alasania also meet his Afghan counterpart Bismillah Khan Mohammadi.

The recent attack brings the total death toll of Georgian soldiers to 29. The bodies of the servicemen killed during the attack were transferred to Georgia on June 9. The funeral ceremony to pay tribute to the fallen soldiers was held at Tbilisi International Airport. The President of Georgia and members of the executive and legislative bodies attended the ceremony. The representatives of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to Georgia also paid tribute to Georgian heroes. The family members of the soldiers were at the airport as well.

“I particularly want to express my deepest condolences to the families of our fallen heroes. Our duty, the main task is to care for them. These Georgian heroes sacrificed themselves to the safe future of our country. Georgia will appreciate their devotion,” Alasania said, asking everybody to express strong support for the brave soldiers in Afghanistan by paying tribute to the fallen heroes.

The Georgian side already received condolences from the U.S Secretary of Defense, U.S Ambassador to Georgia and NATO representatives.

The recent attack raised questions about the necessity of Georgia’s continued participation in the ISAF mission. Georgian citizens express protest over the mission and the fact that Georgian soldiers are dying away from home. However, the Georgian government is not going to withdraw the troops from Afghanistan.

Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili released a video address, where he commented on the importance of the ISAF mission and the Georgian contribution to the mission. Ivanishvili said Georgia will continue to fight for peace in the world. “The fight against terrorism is difficult, but at the same time very honorable mission…Far from Georgia, on foreign land, our troops are defending our homeland at the cost of their lives,” PM said. According to Ivanishvili, despite the tragedy, Georgia will continue the missions.

A journalist and a military expert, Koba Liklikadze says he could never understand the necessity of keeping an increased number of soldiers in Afghanistan, while several NATO member countries have fewer soldiers. In his TV interview with Maestro TV, Liklikadze reminded the current government of the decision Austrian authorities made recently. Having considered that soldiers are in danger, Austrian authorities decided to withdraw the troops from Afghanistan. The expert advised the Georgian government to start considering a withdrawal of Georgian forces from Helmand Province. “I understand it will be a very difficult decision to make,” Liklikadze said. According to him, it will be nearly impossible to find forces which would substitute Georgian troops.