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Georgia’s Afghan burden

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, May 16
Georgia's large contingent of peacekeeping forces in Afghanistan suffered tragic casualties recently. Three Georgian servicemen were killed after suicide bombers struck their compound. During the attack, 27 Georgians were injured.

This tragic event once again raised questions among the Georgian population and media whether is it necessary for Georgia to send its soldiers to Afghanistan.

A popular question in Georgia is: why is the country carrying this heavy Afghan burden on its shoulders when it has problems with its northern neighbor over the security and safety of the country, and when 1/5 of the country’s territories are occupied?

Georgia joined the ISAF/NATO mission at the end of 2009 when a Georgian contingent of 170 servicemen was deployed in the Afghan capital Kabul. Next year, Georgia sent a full battalion to one of the most dangerous areas of Afghanistan where fighting was heavy – in Helmand province. In October 2012, Georgia almost doubled its troop presence there.

The overall number of Georgians serving in Afghanistan is over 1, 500. Georgia has lost 22 servicemen overall in Afghanistan.

Georgian officials have several explanations. The leading justification is that Georgia is not only a consumer of global security, but also contributes to global security.

There are skeptics inside and outside Georgia who think that the ISAF mission in Afghanistan has been a failure, that the Taliban and its supporters keep control over the large territories in Afghanistan, and that the activities of the international coalition are not sufficient.

Many countries have refused to participate in the combat activities, whereas Georgia's contribution is by far the largest per capita among non-NATO member states. Many supporters of this step bring the argument that Georgia will receive the largest support from NATO and eventually it will make it easier for the country to join the alliance.

However, the possibility of Georgia’s joining NATO remains unclear and is currently a long way off. Skeptics say that however deep Georgia's involvement is in the NATO operation, its membership still hinges on Russia. It is also said that Georgian soldiers are receiving valuable combat experience in Afghanistan. However, analysts suggest that the peacekeeping operation in Afghanistan and the possible protection of Georgia’s territorial integrity are absolutely different from the military, as well as the political point of view.

It is understandable that Georgia will not withdraw from the Afghan mission from the political point of view. It will thus continue to prove its pro-Western ambition. However, people already want to see some results by at least receiving MAP from NATO. This is still a very dear price to pay, as Georgia is sacrificing its children for this goal.