By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 9, 2008 – The Pentagon will send an assessment team to Georgia to determine what role the U.S. should play as the nation’s military rebuilds after clashes with Russia, a Defense Department official said today.
"The Department of Defense is sending an assessment team to Tbilisi later this week to help us begin to consider carefully Georgia’s legitimate needs and our response," Eric S. Edelman, undersecretary of defense for policy, told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

After the assessment, officials will review how the United States will be able to support the reconstruction of Georgia, including armed forces aid, Edelman told the lawmakers.

Officials in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi reportedly are eager to rebuild a Georgian military that folded as Russian forces invaded the breakaway province of South Ossetia early last month after an attack by Georgian forces. Russian troops reportedly remain in the former Soviet republic in defiance of a cease-fire deal reached Aug. 13.

President Bush last week pledged to provide $1 billion in nonmilitary aid to Georgia, which supplements the more than 2 million pounds of humanitarian supplies the United States military has delivered over previous weeks. But Edelman’s statements today mark the first time a defense policy official’s public endorsement of U.S. aid to Georgia has included a military reconstruction component.

"Georgia, like any sovereign country, should have the ability to defend itself and deter renewed aggression," he said. "There should not be any question about whether Georgia is entitled to military assistance from the United States or, indeed, from NATO or any of the NATO allies."

Edelman said the United States has played a significant role for several years in preparing Georgian forces to conduct counterterrorism missions, but offered no indication of what type of military aid the United States might provide in the future.

A separate assessment team currently in Georgia is sizing up the losses sustained by the military, Edelman said.

"They’re looking at various aspects of this, trying to assess first the damage to the Georgian military forces, understand what has been lost in terms of equipment and facilities, and get some sense of the scope of what it would take to just rebuild that capability," he said of the assessment team in Georgia now.

Edelman urged that the United States be "measured and calibrated" in its response. He added that the United States "does not seek a new Cold War."

"It requires, first, understanding the situation in terms of capability that exists, capability that might need to be built and reaching some understanding with Georgia about what capabilities it thinks it needs and how they might be employed," he said of the sequenced response.

NATO, which created an ad hoc group Aug. 19 to oversee the alliance’s relationship with Georgia, will send an additional assessment team to help shape the organization’s response, Edelman said.

"NATO has also decided to assist Georgia in assessing the damage caused by Russian military action, including to the Georgian armed forces, and to help restore critical services necessary for normal public life and economic activity," he said.

U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)