The Format of the U.S. Military Assistance to Georgia Changed
Details of the US military assistance to Georgia were revealed after telephone conversation of the US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with his Russian counterpart Sergei Ivanov on March 1. According to Rumsfeld’s statement, the United States intends to provide training and logistics assistance to Georgia at quite wide scale, however the U.S. troops will not be directly engaged in military operations.
Georgian experts also exclude possibility of deployment of the American units in Georgia. Expert of the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Research Archil Gegeshidze believes, however that plans of the United States in Georgia indicate increasing interest of the US towards South Caucasus.
According to existing information, the first stage of the US assistance included transfer of 6 UH-1H “Huey” helicopters to the Georgian side last October and training of the pilots and support personnel for these craft. The U.S. flight instructors will remain in Georgia till October 2002. The United States spent 15 million dollars in total for transfer of the helicopters and training of the Georgian pilots.
As a second stage of assistance programs a team of American military experts visited Georgia to study the situation in the region and plan technical assistance to the Georgian side.
“There was an assessment team in Georgia. It has made a report back. General Myers [chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff of the USA] is awaiting that report and then will come to me with it and we’ll have a discussion about it within the government and make a judgment as to what we might be – end up doing,” Donald Rumsfeld, the US Secretary of Defense stated at the news briefing on March 4.
The third stage is implementation of the ‘train-and-equip’ program for the Georgian armed forces. Starting from the second half of March the U.S. experts will train four battalions of Georgian Defense Ministry [approximately 1,200 soldiers] and prepare them for antiterrorist operations. According to the Washington Post the program will cost $64 million and it will last for maximum three months.
All three stages of assistance are part of the treaty concluded in 1999 between the United States and Georgia about the US assistance to Georgia in military field.
Up to 200 American experts will be engaged in the program. But their participation will be phased into the several stages. Coordinator for the program from the US side is Otar Shalikashvili, a Georgian-American assistant to the US defense secretary, who will arrive in Georgia in late March.
Initially, the military cooperation between the two countries was mainly connected to the security of the oil pipeline and TRASECA project. However, after escalation in Chechnya and September 11 events in the U.S. the details of the cooperation were modified. The sides agreed that more attention was needed on anti-terrorist training and the new parameters for cooperation were drafted in November-December, 2001.
“The cooperation would be accelerated in time and it details will be significantly adjusted as well” – says Mirian Kiknadze, Head of the Public Relations Office of the Defense Ministry, “Now this [joint] program foresees sharing of experience and information with the US armed forces anti-terrorism.”
“The new program does not consider launching of the antiterrorist operation in Georgia, however it is being considered as a part of the United States’ worldwide antiterrorist campaign” – says Georgian Defense Minister David Tevzadze.
By Salome Jashi, Civil Georgia