- Saakashvili: Georgia remains “committed member” of ISAF
Four Georgian servicemen were killed in Afghanistan on mine explosion, the Georgian Defense Ministry said in a brief statement early on October 1.
The latest deaths bring to five the number of Georgian soldiers killed in Afghanistan, since joining the NATO-led operation in November, 2009. Georgia suffered its first casualty in early September. At least three Georgian soldiers have been wounded.
The Georgian Ministry of Defense released the names of four soldiers killed in the recent incident - Col. Ramaz Gogiashvili, Sergeant Davit Tsetskhladze, Corporal Giorgi Kolkhitashvili and Corporal Nugzar Kalandadze. No other details have yet been reported.
NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who is visiting Tbilisi, expressed condolences over death of Georgian soldiers.
“Today is a sad day for all of us; several of your comrades have yesterday been killed in combat in Afghanistan,” Rasmussen said early on October 1 in a brief speech made in the Georgian Ministry of Defense.
“Georgian soldiers are serving in the Helmand province – one of the most difficult areas in our mission in Afghanistan,” he said. “I highly appreciate you dedication to our common security, which is a testimony of strong partnership between Georgia and NATO. For this I am very grateful.”
Georgia sent its 31st infantry battalion to Afghanistan in April, 2010 to serve alongside with the U.S. marines in the province of Helmand. With this deployment Georgia increased its military presence in Afghanistan up to 950 soldiers. Georgia first deployed a company-sized unit in Afghanistan under the French command in November, 2009.
Speaking at a joint news conference with NATO Secretary General on October 1, President Saakashvili said that sacrifice of Georgian soldiers in Afghanistan amounted “to sacrifice for global international interests, which our small country has.”
He also said that Georgian soldiers in Afghanistan “are first and foremost fighting for Georgia’s national interests.”
“It would be a great mistake to limit Georgia’s interests only by the borders of Georgia when a global political struggle is underway against us. We have international interests; we have our allies and friends.”
“When I was sending soldiers to Afghanistan I talked to them – of course, they fully acknowledge the risk; they feel proud and dignified, because they are fighting under the [Georgian national] five-cross flag and first of all, for the national interests of Georgia,” he said.
“We are committed members of ISAF… You should count on our support and we count on your further political support to our territorial integrity, our independence and to future development of my country,” Saakashvili told the NATO Secretary General.
“Their sacrifice will not be in vain. We are making progress in Afghanistan and I can assure that we will stay as long as it takes to finish our job to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for terrorists,” Rasmussen said at the joint news conference.
"I can assure you that NATO also stands firm in our commitment to Georgia," he added.