The Parliament approved on Tuesday President Saakashvili’s request to send one additional infantry battalion to Afghanistan on top of 936 Georgian soldiers who already serve as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
As a result, after sending one more battalion – that is 749 soldiers – Georgia will become the largest non-NATO contributor to ASAF with total of 1,685 troops. Currently Australia is the largest non-NATO contributor to the Afghan operation with 1,550 soldiers on the ground.
Georgia, whose troops operate without caveats, has lost total of ten soldiers in Afghanistan – all in the Helmand province.
Georgia’s first contribution to the Afghan operation came in 2004 when 50 soldiers were briefly deployed in the country under the German command as part of ensuring security during the presidential elections.
In November, 2009 Georgia deployed 173 soldiers in Kabul under the French command and in following year Georgia increased presence in Afghanistan by sending an infantry battalion in the Helmand province serving along with the U.S. marines.
Earlier this year Georgia also sent 11 military instructors to Kandahar under the French command.
Praising Georgia for its significant contribution to the ISAF mission, NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said when he visited Tbilisi in November that there was no direct link between participation in the Afghan operation and the NATO membership.
“The Georgian contribution to our operation in Afghanistan also helps to improve interoperability between Georgian armed forces and NATO armed forces… But having said that I would also like to stress that there is no direct link between contributions to our operations and future membership of NATO; it is one factor, but there are many elements that have to be fulfilled before the membership can materialize,” Rasmussen said on November 9.