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Russians Remain in Georgia, U.S. Continues Humanitarian Aid

By Army Staff Sgt. Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 22, 2008 – Although some movement of Russian troops in Georgia has occurred, it’s difficult to determine whether it’s an indication of withdrawal or just a repositioning of forces, a Defense Department official said today.

“There have been some movements around [the town of] Gory, but it’s unclear whether that is the beginning of a significant withdrawal,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said. “The only movements we’ve seen are relatively minor.”

The Defense Department remains steadfast in its support to Georgia as officials work to determine whether Russia is commencing with the drawdown terms it agreed to or is moving its troops for other purposes, Whitman said.

U.S. humanitarian assistance and distribution continues in Georgia. C-130 Hercules aircraft and C-17 Globemaster III transport jets continue to provide supplies daily. The first U.S. naval ships with supplies are scheduled to deliver aid as early as next week, he said.

The Navy’s USS McFaul left for the Black Sea yesterday, while the Coast Guard Cutter Dallas and Navy command ship USS Mount Whitney are scheduled to leave later this week. The ships are set to arrive in Georgia within a week.

Ships can carry much more cargo per mission than aircraft. The McFaul is carrying around 80 pallets of supplies, while C-130s have been carrying three to six pallets. A C-17 can carry up to 12 per sortie, Whitman said.

So far, more than 30 U.S. sorties carrying more than 430 tons of humanitarian aid have been supplied to Georgia since Russian troops invaded the country three weeks ago. The U.S. government has spent nearly $11 million in humanitarian assistance to date, nearly $5 million of which has consisted of Defense Department-led airlifts and emergency supplies, he said.

The Defense Department expects no interference with its ability to deliver humanitarian assistance, Whitman said.

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