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Georgian Humanitarian Mission Continues

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 14, 2008 – The humanitarian mission under way in Georgia is intended to alleviate suffering for now and will move into longer-range help in the future, officials said at a Pentagon news conference today.

The Air Force has sent two supply-filled C-17 Globemaster III transports into Georgia’s capital of Tbilisi. More flights will follow, officials said, but none are scheduled just yet.

Russian troops who invaded Georgia last week are beginning to pull back, Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said today. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates also spoke at the news conference.

“Generally, the [Russian] forces are starting to move out of the city, particularly Gori, starting to consolidate their positions and get themselves into a position where they can start to back away towards … the border,” the general said. “We see that going on particularly in the areas around the seaports and around Tbilisi, and up north of Tbilisi and west towards Gori.”

Russian air activities in and around the region have virtually stopped, Cartwright said. “Over the last 24 hours, really, there has been no air activity,” he said. “So we see them generally complying and moving back into a position where they can start to make their exit in an orderly fashion.”

Another Air Force plane transported a six-man humanitarian assistance assessment team. “This is a sequenced kind of thing,” Gates said. The team will look at the seaports, airports and roads, assess their condition and report back to U.S. European Command. The team also will work with the U.S. Embassy in Georgia and with Georgian leaders to ascertain what the country needs. U.S. military transport planes or ships will deliver that aid.

Cartwright said the military team will look at what roads are open, where help is needed, and what kind of help is needed in those areas. Civilian humanitarian assistance teams from various U.S. agencies will join the servicemembers as the assessment process goes forward, State Department officials said.

The two C-17s that have already arrived carried what’s become the standard package for humanitarian assistance, Cartwright said. Goods delivered included materials to build shelters, clothing and medical supplies.

“What we don't want to do is build some sort of mountain of supplies there with no distribution system,” Cartwright said.

The general said he expects many answers will come in the next 48 hours.

In a statement provided to American Forces Press Service, Air Force Maj. Gen. Mike Gould, U.S. Transportation Command's operations director, said the command is ready to do whatever it's asked to do.

"U.S. Transportation Command, our service components and enterprise partners are capitalizing on our world-class global transportation network to support the regional commander's requirements," he said. "We are closely monitoring the situation and stand ready to continue supporting the humanitarian assistance efforts for the people of Georgia."

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Robert M. Gates
Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright

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