Georgia, Tbilisi, March 15 / Trend N. Kirtzkhalia /
U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta visited the Georgian peacekeeping base at Shukvani in Afghanistan, located in the area overseen by U.S. troops in Helmand province.
The Georgian Defence Ministry reported that Panetta thanked the Georgian military for their participation in NATO's ISAF operation and admired them for their bravery. The minister read out former military commander Alexander Tugushi's letter to the Georgian military. Tugushi is being treated in the U.S.
In his message, Colonel Tugushi expressed his support for his brother-soldiers and said he regretted not being able to complete his mission in Afghanistan with them.
The Georgian and the U.S. presidents visited wounded Tugushi in an American hospital in early February and expressed their gratitude for his courage and bravery.
About 900 Georgian military personnel serve in Afghanistan today, of which 700 are in the U.S. zone of responsibility in Helmand province.
Georgia has lost 15 military in Afghanistan since 2009, but decided to increase its contingent to 1600 in the autumn.