In his speech delivered on March 11 to commemorate 6 months of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, President George W. Bush provided most detailed overview of the US involvement in Georgia and gave the political rationale behind the US involvement.
“Terrorists working closely with Al-Qaida operate in the Pankisi Gorge near the Russian border. At President Shevardnadze’s request, the United States is planning to send up to 150 military trainers to prepare Georgian soldiers to reestablish control in this lawless region” – said President Bush on March 11.
As Georgian Defense Minister David Tevzadze states, American military experts are expected to arrive to Georgia between March 15 and 25. As it is already known, they will train 4 battalions of the Georgian Defense Ministry, so they would be capable to conduct antiterrorist operation by themselves.
George W. Bush says that the US assistance to former Soviet Republic Georgia “serves the interests of both countries”.
The President’s speech confirmed that American soldiers will not participate in the possible antiterrorist operations in Georgia. “We will not send American troops to every battle, but America will actively prepare other nations for the battles ahead” – said President Bush.
Along with US “train-and-equip” assistance program “designed for the Georgian armed forces, team of the American military experts will visit Georgia to assist the Defense Ministry in establishing a crisis management center. David Tevzadze says that this center will be planning the antiterrorist operations.
Meanwhile the Georgian government fails to achieve the US backing in recognizing a breakaway republic of Abkhazia as another terrorist shelter.
“We have no definitive information on the presence of Al-Qaeda operatives in that region of Abkhazia,” US Department of State Spokesman Richard Boucher stated at the news briefing on March 11.
Georgian State Security Minister Valeri Khaburdzania, who is visiting London and Washington D.C. for negotiations on Pankisi issues with his counterparts, has been stating earlier that Abkhazia has become a shelter for the terrorists, some of whom may have connections with Al-Qaeda.
Unrecognized Abkhazian government expressed concern regarding these statements and considered them as a Tbilisi’s preparation for launching military operations against Sukhumi, breakaway Abkhazian capital.
The US is not concerned that the Georgians might use participation in the antiterrorist coalition for their own purposes and launch military operations in Abkhazia using war on terrorism as umbrella, Richard Boucher said. The US Department of State’s Spokesman does not foresee such a possibility. “We [the United States] work closely with Georgia. We work together with Georgia on these issues” he told the journalists on March 11 briefing.
By Giorgi Sepashvili, Civil Georgia
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