U.S. to Review Mil­i­tary Aid to Geor­gia

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)