Meetings Notes, Georgian Institute of Public Affairs, May 15, 2002
Colonel Otar Shalikashvili, chief advisor of the US Defense Secretary for US-Georgian military cooperation, spoke to the audience at the Georgian Institute for Public Affairs in a meeting organized by the Tbilisi Center for Strategic and Security Studies. Founder of the Center Revaz Adamia (former chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Defense and Security) introduced by Col. Shalikashvili, who spoke about the background and details of the Georgia Train-and-Equip program [GTEP]. Notes of the meeting follow.
Train-and-Equip Program Background:
- Close relations between Georgia and US have long history;
- Assistance in military field concentrated on peacekeeping-related issues;
- Georgia active in Partnership for Peace (PfP) Program;
- But Georgia defense needs went beyond peacekeeping – both feedback from our colleagues and our observations;
- After 9/11 the international agenda changed;
- Last fall the need to alleviate Georgian concerns over Pankisi [gorge] became clear;
- It came to our knowledge that Russian proposed joint operation in Pankisi. Georgian administration declined for the reasons that I well understand.
- It is common knowledge that US is interested in assisting Georgia in developing its own capabilities and has informed Russians on it intentions;
- Early in October decision was made on providing training and equipment to a point that would be substantial, but won’t upset the regional equilibrium.
Command & Control Part of GTEP:
- Part of C&C is to have well-trained professional staff that maintain the knowledge, have contingency plans and operational control;
- Most armies have these programs but they take up to 20 years;
- We would assist to have this training in shorter period;
- Another part of C&C is the control centers. One of such centers will be established, which in the Ministry of Defense;
- We want to improve Georgia’s military capabilities but political and civilian control is essential. For this purpose some structural changes will be required [in Georgian government];
- We would assist in creating also what we call a White House Security Room – a crisis management center for taking political decisions in military/security fields. This center will be created at the National Security Council of Georgia, which would make it easier to analyze the situation and make decisions.
- Political decisions taken there would go to the MoD which would make operational decisions;
- Involvement of the other "power ministries" should be guaranteed. Military control structures would have representatives from the other "power ministries".
- As a part of C&C assistance we would also provide the communications equipment.
GTEP Training and Georgian Commitments:
- Training is on one hand much simpler, we have been training the units world-wide and with some success;
- But it is difficult as it requires most participation and commitment of the Georgian side;
- We were told that Georgian Army has 20000 men, we do not question it, but we could not find them;
- Selection of the limited numbers of Georgian armed forces is due to the Georgian resource constrains.
- We do not want to waste our training time and our taxpayers money, not yours either.
- Georgian side has committed itself to:
o Bringing the battalions to be trained to their full strength
o Signing the contracts with the US-trained Georgian soldiers, so that their living is guaranteed;
o Ensuring that these people would remain in armed forces for at least 3 years.
- These commitments would require some legislative and operational decisions from the Georgian side;
- Before we start training we would sit down and discuss how the commitments are met. If they are not, than GTEP would be in great jeopardy.
- Battalion training would be done sequentially, one after another;
- Each battalion would be trained for 4 months;
- Training all battalions together would have stretched the resources of the Georgian government;
- It would also be easier to gauge success [of each unit] in case of sequential training;
- The first to be trained would be the commando battalion, which would be trained during four months together with helicopter unit. It will function as rapid reaction force.
- Other battalions would receive similar training but without the helicopter-interoperability part;
- Other battalions are identified, but final decision is pending. Most likely it would be:
o Vaziani light infantry batallion
o Sachkhere battalion of the National Guard
o Kodjori Special Operations Unit.
o And tank & mechanized infantry unit from Vaziani.
- Each battalion training would culminate with an exercise which would also be an exam to see if these units are effective;
- We would jointly agree with the Georgian side if the unit is trained, or needs additional training.
Logistics, Control Mechanisms and Funding
- Staff training will is tentatively scheduled be launched on May 27;
- I would return to Georgian in the beginning of July to assess if the system has been put together (pay-scales, contracts, etc.) and to decide on start of the first battalion training;
- Delays in training would be risky for the program – our trainers are in short supply and thinly stretched, they can be needed someplace else;
- The starting date of the GTEP was delayed as it took time to collect money in the US. It was not because of hesitation, but because of the procedures and the timing of your budget year;
- US would commit over 60m. USD for the program;
- The number of trainers that you have heard from the press and the official releases – 150 people – is an upper ceiling. We never plan to reach it. It is not the quantity but the quality that matters;
- Control mechanisms that are standard in the US Army would be instituted in the Georgian military. No single piece of equipment or supply would be issued without somebody signing for it.
You have spoken about command, control and communication assistance. Is another component – intelligence also included in assistance program?
Intelligence input should be there, but only Georgian side is in charge of integrating it within the system.
What is to be done before May 27 in order to start program?
Battalion training would begin if Georgian side fulfils its commitments. We expect that the contract system is in place and people would sign them. However the staff training to be launched on 27th [of May] is 100% officer training and we would start without contracts.
Could new weaponry and equipment of the US-trained troops impede interoperability with other units of the Georgian army?
No, we would supply only Soviet-type weapons and there would be no interoperability problems. Each battalion would identify the gaps in their equipment and ammunition, and we would help to fill those gaps.