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US Troops in Georgia?

US media sources report on February 27, that the United States intend to open new front of war on terrorism in Pankisi gorge, Georgia where Al Qaeda and Chechen fighters are harboring.

“U.S. Special Forces will be deployed to the former Soviet republic of Georgia later this week. Orders to send between 100 and 200 Special Forces troops into Georgia are expected to be issued later this week” CBS News reports.

The Washington Post reported that the Pentagon has begun providing combat helicopters to the former Soviet republic of Georgia and will soon begin training several Georgian battalions to counter what defense officials believe is a growing terrorist threat in the country’s mountainous Pankisi Gorge region, senior U.S. officials said yesterday.

Georgian authorities deny reports and say that no military operation is intended in Pankisi gorge.

Delegation of US Department of Defense visited Georgia on February 27 to discuss the issue of military assistance to Georgia.

According to member of the delegation Elmer White, Eurasian Branch Chief of US Headquarters, the Train and Equipment program was discussed at the meeting, “which is designed to allow the Georgian military to better secure its territorial integrity and provide its own security”.

“The train and equipment program is a natural expansion of our ongoing security cooperation between Georgia and United States”, he said. The program was initiated last year.

According to the Chief of General Staff of Georgia Joni Pirtskhalaishvili, the issues of further training of Georgian troops were discussed at the meeting.

Georgian officials deny that joint or any other kind of military operation is on the agenda in Pankisi gorge, where according to the US officials Al Qaeda fighters have taken refuge.

“There is no talk on military operation,” Georgian Deputy Defense Minister Gela Bezhuashvili stated on February 27, commenting visit of US military delegation to Georgia.

Georgian State Security and Defense Ministries deny reports of the Washington Post that US government intends to open a new front in the war on terrorism in Pankisi gorge.

“Even such a newspaper like the Washington Post sometimes mix reality with fantasy,” Georgian President’s spokesman Kakha Imnadze told Rustavi 2 TV company, commenting the report of the Washington Post.

Russian officials also deny reports and say that they have no information concerning the US intention to send troops to Georgia. At the same time Russian authorities express concern regarding the possible US military presence in Georgia. 

“Dispatching US troops to Georgia will worsen situation in the region,” Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Igor Ivanov stated in the interview to the Russian ORT TV company on February 27.

The Minister said that Russia has already offered military assistance to Georgia to combat terrorism on its territory, “this is important for Russia, Georgia and the stability in the region.”

Georgia rejects Russian proposals on the joint military operation in Pankisi gorge.

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