Georgia's path to NATO
Arzu Naghiyev, Trend expert
Georgia intends to increase the number of troops in Afghanistan to 1,685 people until 2013. This figure has attracted the attention of both Washington and the military leadership in NATO headquarters in Brussels.
Today, the Georgian military contingent in Afghanistan, consisting of 940 servicemen is involved in the mine clearance of areas in southern Afghanistan province of Helmand, in road safety and military operations against illegal armed groups. Sending additional troops is scheduled for this spring.
Georgia is trying to demonstrate once again that its contingent wants to participate "unconditionally" in any missions and military operations conducted by NATO, which is regarded as one of its main requirements. So, Georgia has an opportunity to create new foot battalions for expeditionary fighting abroad, as well as to increase combat power.
For this purpose, Georgia held military exercises code-named "Agile Spirit 2012" in conjunction with the U.S. in March.
Some 350 U.S. Marines and 400 Georgian troops were involved in the nine-day military training exercise. The Black Sea military unit, stationed in Romania represented the USA. Main purpose of the exercise was to improve the combat training of the armed forces of Georgia, sent to Afghanistan in the "Marine Corps Martial Arts Program", and to strengthen military cooperation with Georgia.
The dynamic development of relations between Georgia and NATO was noted during a visit of NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen to the region, at a meeting with the 33rd Foot Battalion returning from Afghanistan to Georgia. According to Rasmussen, 'Georgia becomes closer to NATO membership by helping Afghanistan and it is important to complete the reforms'.
The population mostly positively evaluates the efforts of Georgia to join NATO, despite the presence of minor opposition views. According to the survey, which was held by the Caucasus Research and Resource Center, only 4 percent of respondents were against sending troops to Afghanistan, despite the fact that 15 Georgian servicemen were killed during the operations conducted in Afghanistan.
In general, NATO forces have lost 92 servicemen in Afghanistan since the beginning of 2012. It means that 38 coalition servicemen died every month in Afghanistan. According to surveys conducted among the U.S. population, 47 percent were in favor of accelerating the withdrawal of troops, and 3 percent for immediate withdrawal, 33 percent - for withdrawal in accordance with the schedule, 17 percent were in favor to keep troops in Afghanistan after 2014.
Interestingly, the U.S. Senate appointed Richard Norland, who has 32 years of diplomatic experience, the U.S. Ambassador to Georgia. Previously, he was U.S. Ambassador to Uzbekistan, deputy mission of the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan, worked on political and economic propaganda between the U.S. army formations and civilians in Mazar-e Sharif.
As an observer, he worked in Georgia in the framework of the Conference on European security, peace and cooperation, and he visited Chechnya with this mission in 1995. He speaks Russian, French, Norwegian and Latvian. Appointment of a specialist on the settlement of military and strategic conflicts to the diplomatic service in the South Caucasus, in Georgia, suggests a number of reasons.
With this in mind, we can make such a conclusion, that the Georgian leadership by all means and at any cost is eager to join the NATO. And the participation of military forces of Georgia in the coalition in Afghanistan is a main condition, which Tbilisi accepts to achieve full membership in the North-Atlantic Alliance.