Georgia will maintain its 2,000 troops in Iraq for “several more months,” Aleksandre Lomaia, the secretary of the Georgian National Security Council, said on March 20.
Lomaia said that the matter had been discussed during the meeting between U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and President Saakashvili in Washington. Lomaia, who attended the meeting, told Rustavi 2 TV: “At the meeting the U.S. side officially requested the Georgian president to extend the presence of the Georgian troops in Iraq for several more months, because our American colleges assess the presence of our troops in that important part [of Iraq] as very important for the success of the operation.”
Georgia increased its troop level in Iraq from 850 to 2,000 last year and it was originally planned to decrease that level to 300 this summer.
Georgian soldiers are located in the province of Wasit, patrolling the city of Al Kut, which is 185 kilometers south-east of Baghdad.
According to the Georgina Ministry of Defense one Georgian serviceman died in a car accident in Al Kut in December 2008. Another serviceman, according to the MoD, committed suicide last October.
A total of 18 Georgian servicemen have been injured in Iraq since the first deployment in August 2003.
President Bush told his Georgian counterpart at a meeting in Washington on March 19: “The citizens of Georgia must know that the troops that have been provided there are brave, courageous professionals, and have made a significant difference.”