Opposition Labor Party called on political parties in Georgia to sign a declaration that would demand withdrawal of 935-strong Georgian force from Afghanistan, which the authorities plan to further increase by sending an additional battalion this year.
“The parties, which will not sign this declaration and will be in favor of presence of Georgian troops in Afghanistan, will be worse than Saakashvili is and blood of Georgian soldiers will be on their hands,” Giorgi Gugava, political secretary of the Labor Party, said on February 28.
The declaration says that President Saakashvili’s administration uses large contribution to the ISAF for own political purposes trying to secure support of the West “to maintain his authoritarian rule” in Georgia, which is “discrediting western values among the population.”.
Georgia has lost fifteen of its soldiers in Afghanistan – all of them in the Helmand province in the south of the country.
The most recent fatality was reported last week when three Georgian soldiers died as a result of an improvised explosive device attack on February 21.
The Labor Party’s declaration is not likely to be embraced by major parties across the political spectrum in the country as there is a consensus among them that Georgia should be part of the NATO-led operation in Afghanistan. Debates on the issue are usually mainly focused on the scale of Georgia’s contribution.
President Saakashvili said on February 25 that those who were against of Georgia’s contribution to the NATO-led operations in Afghanistan “are footmen of Putin and of Russia.”
Asked whether he would downscale or increase Georgia’s ISAF contribution in case of coming into power, Bidzina Ivanishvili, leader of Georgian Dream opposition coalition, responded in his recent interview published on February 27: “We should be proud of being partners of such states like the U.S. and other NATO members. This partnership requires our country to fulfill this mission in dignity.”
“Necessity of whether to decrease or increase our military contingent [in Afghanistan] will be considered, but we will not stop aspiring towards the Euro-Atlantic space. On the contrary, we will intensify and accelerate it,” Ivanishvili said.
A day earlier his spokesperson, Maia Panjikidze, told a news conference: “After we come into power, Georgia’s participation in [ISAF] operation will be as guaranteed as it is today and this issue will not be reconsidered.”
One of the parties, which is likely to join the Labor Party’s declaration, is Free Georgia, led by former Conservative Party co-leader Kakha Kukava, which says that Georgia’s military presence in Afghanistan is “absolutely unjustified”.