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American Troops Help Defend Georgia
by James Dunnigan
August 26, 2008

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As Russian troops invade, from bases in southern Russia, 127 American military trainers remain in Georgia (the one in the Caucasus). They weren't the only foreign troops around, as at the end of July, a thousand Ukrainian, Azeri, Armenian and U.S. troops departed after holding joint training exercises with their Georgian counterparts.

For the past three years, several hundred American military trainers have run the GSSOP (Georgia Sustainment and Stability Operations Program), which has trained over 5,000 Georgian troops, many for eventual service in Iraq. The trainers were American soldiers and marines, who imparted their combat experience to the Georgians. This was much appreciated, as Georgia aspires to membership in NATO. That requires the Georgian being able to achieve NATO standards in training and equipment. Georgia hoped to get into NATO by next year.

The U.S. trainers, usually a team of 70 Americans taking a 600 man Georgian infantry battalion through a 17 week training program, concentrate on combat subjects. Other training programs instructed support and staff troops.

Georgia has been an active participant in peacekeeping operations since 1999, when they sent 200 troops to Kosovo, and kept troops there until the present. In 2003, 70 peacekeepers were sent to Iraq. The following year, 50 troops were sent to Afghanistan. In 2004, the Iraq contingent was increased to 300. That was increased to 850 in 2005. Last year, the Iraq force was increased to 2,000. The Georgians were highly regarded by troops they worked with on these peacekeeping missions.

Georgia has a population of about 4.6 million, and an active duty military of about 28,000 troops. Russia has a population of 142 million, and an active duty military of about a million personnel. The U.S. has been helping Georgia train and equip an army reserve force of about 100,000. Only about a fifth of that force has been organized so far. Georgia was hoping to develop a sufficient qualitative advantage to discourage the Russians.

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