Georgia’s contribution to the Afghan operation is “extremely important”, which has “gotten far too little attention,” U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, said on March 2.
At a briefing in Washington on his recent trip to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Central Asia, Georgia and Germany, Holbrooke said that he visited Georgia on February 21-22 to only discuss Georgia’s plan to send additional troops to Afghanistan.
“We did not discuss U.S-Russian relations. We did not discuss issues involving their future relationships with NATO. This was an Afghanistan-related trip,” he said.
Georgia, which already has 175 soldiers in Afghanistan serving under the French command, will send in April an infantry battalion without national caveats, who will be deployed alongside with the U.S. Marines in the province of Helmand.
After sending the battalion number of Georgian troops in Afghanistan will increase up to 950, making Georgia the largest per capita contributor to the Afghan operation.
Holbrooke, who during the visit observed training of the Georgian battalion outside Tbilisi, said: “The U.S. Marines, who are advising the training… said these are among the best troops that they’ve ever seen.”
He said that many of those Georgian soldiers, who will be deployed in Afghanistan, were part of Georgia’s 2,000-strong troops serving in Iraq. Georgia withdrew its troops from Iraq during the war with Russia in August, 2008.
“They have a tremendous fighting tradition,” Holbrooke said. “President Saakashvili and I had discussed this [deployment] a year ago and started the process which has led to the deployment… I want to express with great strength on behalf of the entire U.S. Government how much the United States Government appreciates the Georgian contribution.”
Holbrooke also said that his trip to Georgia “came by coincidence on the same day that the government in the Netherlands fell.” The Dutch coalition government collapsed on February 20 when the two largest parties failed to agree on whether to extend or not presence of the Dutch troops in Afghanistan beyond its original deadline of August, 2010.