GEORGIA’S WELCOME GUESTS.

Publication: Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 87

On March 30, a first group of some twenty U.S. Army Green Berets arrived in Georgia, launching a mission originally announced in late February and early March. The deployment, scheduled to include some 200 U.S. special troops, is America’s first in the South Caucasus, and the first by any Western power in the region since 1918.

The first group, a site survey team, includes logistics and communications personnel, tasked to prepare the groundwork for the train-and-equip mission of U.S. special troops, ordered by the White House and the Pentagon at the request of President Eduard Shevardnadze. Once the groundwork is accomplished and the remainder of the American trainers are deployed, they will work on several levels. To the command staffs of Georgia’s Defense Ministry, land forces, border guard and security agencies, the U.S. trainers will teach standardized operating procedures, operational planning, and a property accounting system. The American troops will instruct Georgian units in light infantry tactics, offensive and defensive operations at battalion, company and platoon level, and airmobile tactics. The U.S. special troops will train the Georgians in such combat basics as squad tactics, marksmanship, movement techniques, lifesaving, radio operation and land navigation, and supply the Georgians with small arms, medical gear and radios. Georgian soldiers graduating from this program are to enlist on contract in Georgia’s special troops, for initial terms of three to five years.

The U.S. train-and-equip program will create and instruct in Georgia a national staff for crisis management, an operational staff for land troops, two light infantry battalions, a special operations battalion, and a mechanized-armored element within the elite 11th Brigade. These phases of the training are expected to last three to four months. The program forms a centerpiece of a US$65 million American effort in the current year to assist in the formation of modern Georgian forces, capable of dealing with terrorist threats. The U.S.-Georgian agreement, in the form of an exchange of notes, was ratified on April 12 by the Georgian parliament.

According to U.S. State Department officials, Shevardnadze has guaranteed in writing that the American-trained Georgian military units will not be involved in any operations in Abkhazia. Shevardnadze has, in fact, given those assurances publicly more than once in Georgia and to the international mediators of the Georgian-Abkhaz negotiations.

Meanwhile, on April 26 in Moscow, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Russia’s First Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov co-chaired a meeting of the U.S.-Russia Working Group on Afghanistan. According to one passage in the joint communique, “the co-chairs affirmed that U.S.-Russia cooperation in Central Asia and the Caucasus has developed productively since September 11. The sides reaffirmed their conviction that a settlement of the Georgian-Abkhaz and Georgian-South Ossetian conflicts can only be achieved by political methods, through existing negotiation mechanisms based on UN Security Council and OSCE decisions. The sides underscored the need to assist the Georgian government in developing its capabilities to counter terrorism.” The passage appears to reflect an informal understanding that Moscow would tolerate this American program, while the United States and Georgia would for the time being accept Russia’s primacy as “peacekeeper” and mediator in the Abkhazia and South Ossetia conflicts.

In a parallel development, the inspector-general [equivalent to chief of the General Staff] of Germany’s Bundeswehr, four-star General Harald Kujat, visited Georgia on April 24-26 for discussion on German-Georgian and NATO-Georgia military relations. Kujat is due to take over as Chairman of NATO’s Military Committee in July. Germany is about to launch a training program this year in Georgia for noncommissioned officers on the German model, and an overhaul of rear and logistical services of the Georgian military. On April 20-26, a delegation of Turkey’s General Staff was in Tbilisi on an invitation to guide and finance the reorganization of Georgia’s Military Academy. In mid-June, Georgia will host the Cooperative Best Effort 2002 exercise under NATO aegis (Pentagon press release, April 29; State Department press release, April 27; Prime-News, Black Sea Press, Western news agencies, April 25-30; see the Monitor, March 5, 8, April 2, 12, 16-17).

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