President Saakashvili said, that Georgia’s contribution to NATO-led forces in Afghanistan “has not been in vain” and resulted into moving U.S.-Georgia military cooperation to “a new level” that would help Georgia to increase its self-defense capabilities.
Speaking after visiting a Georgian soldier, wounded in Afghanistan and now undergoing treatment in a military hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, Saakashvili said: “We should understand that the fact that decision has been made to move military cooperation [with the U.S.] on absolutely new level in order to focus actually on our self-defense is” a result of Georgia’s contribution to ISAF.
“Of course it is Georgia, which we should defend and which we should care for and [Georgian troops] are in Afghanistan first and foremost because of Georgia,” Saakashvili said.
On February 2 the U.S. Department of State’s spokesperson was asked at a news briefing in Washington what this “new level” of defense cooperation, President Saakashvili had been speaking about after talks with the U.S. leadership, entailed and whether the U.S. would now start “to ship heavy weaponry to Georgia.”
Department of State’s spokesperson, Victoria Nuland, responded: “The United States and Georgia have agreed to continue to develop our bilateral defense and security cooperation.”
“This cooperation is built on the successful programs that we already have to help the Georgian military in its reform effort, something that we do with many militaries around the world, including many of Georgia’s neighbors, and their defense modernization effort to support their self-defense – so we’re talking about defense. And also to sustain the work that Georgian forces do in ISAF in Afghanistan and to help them remain interoperable with NATO. Georgia is one of the largest non-NATO contributors to the ISAF mission,” Nuland said.
Also on February 2, President Saakashvili met with CIA Director David Petraeus at the CIA headquarters and discussed “many issues”, the Georgian President’s press office reported in a brief press release. It also said that the CIA chief “expressed admiration over bravery” of Georgian soldiers, who had served under his command when he led multinational forces in Iraq and then ISAF.