U.S. Considers Train and Equip Program for Georgia
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2002 U.S. military officials are making plans to help the former Soviet republic of Georgia train and equip its armed forces to improve internal security, senior Pentagon officials said today. Such assistance would ultimately help the war on global terrorism, they said.
Georgia. (Click map for screen-resolution image.) (From the CIA Worldfact Book, Guide to Country Profiles.)
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
U.S. leaders greatly appreciate Georgia's participation in the war on terrorism and value military-to-military relations with the former Soviet republic, said Pentagon spokeswoman Torie Clarke.
"We have always been, and remain, committed to their efforts to improve their internal security," she said. "Internal security and stability there improves stability in the region and that is a good thing."
U.S. European Command officials, working with their Georgian counterparts, are in the early stages of the planning for the train and equip program, said Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Officials on both sides are working on a "proposal to move forward that would make sense to both of our governments," Pace said. "It has not been approved. It is simply an assessment that is ongoing to see where Georgia thinks they may need assistance, and for us to see where we want to help."
Once the planning group has fleshed out a proposal, he said, they would submit it to both governments for approval. "The number of trainers, the duration, those kinds of things are part of what will eventually come forward," he noted.
In mid-October, the United States transferred 10 unarmed UH-1 Huey helicopters to help the Caucasus republic overcome its force mobility problems. A DoD team -- one service member and seven contractors -- is currently in Georgia helping with the transfer and maintenance of the helicopters.
U.S. officials made the decision to send the helicopters before last year's terrorist attack, Clarke noted. "We've had a military-to-military relationship and ongoing activities with Georgia well before Sept. 11," she said.
U.S. military officials have worked with their Georgian counterparts for years. U.S. officials have helped train Georgian noncommissioned and commissioned officers since 1996, Pace noted. The republic has been a member of NATO's Partnership for Peace since 1994.
Transferring equipment is part of the natural evolution of military-to-military relations between the United States and nations around the world, according to Pace. Such routine assistance is primarily intended to help national governments improve internal security, but in the post- Sept. 11 world, it also ultimately helps the global war on terrorism.
"Either you have terrorists or you don't," he said. "If you don't, and you have a strong security environment, it is less likely that terrorists will come. If you have a weak security environment, it is more likely that terrorists will come.
"The fact of the matter is, as we help our friends increase their own security capability, we are helping them in the global war on terrorism and against other internal threats they may have," Pace concluded.
Both Pace and Clarke said it would be inappropriate to discuss what U.S. officials know about terrorist networks in specific countries. "We have been focused very hard on the fact that Al Qaeda has cells in 50 or 60 different countries around the world," Clarke said. "There have been some indications of some connections of Al Qaeda in that country."
"Clearly, anywhere there are terrorists in the world, we are concerned," Pace said. "We're trying as best we can to find the linkages worldwide and to work with friendly governments worldwide to assist them with their own internal security problems."