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Sikharulidze’s “tongue-slip” – a shock for Pentagon2009-08-24 17:54
Tbilisi welcomes US military instructors that on September 1 will start training Georgian soldiers for their participation in the peacekeeping operation in Afghanistan. Georgian Defense Minister David Sikharulidze has already met with Commandant of the US Marine Corps. The minister's statement that the acquired skills will help Georgians rebuff possible Russian aggression embarrassed Pentagon that had coordinated the training of Georgian troops with Russia. Later Sikharulidze retracted his comment saying he had other things in mind. But the first word is more meaningful than the second one, isn't it?
General James Conway commanding 75 US marines arrived on a working visit in Tbilisi on Friday. He discussed various aspects of current Georgia-US defense cooperation and its prospects, Rosbalt reports. The parties also spoke about Georgian security issues, priority directions of Defense Ministry activities and military reforms.
It was on the same day that David Sikharulidze shocked the Pentagon in his interview with the Associated Press. "Joint drills with Georgian and US troops and submission of our contingent as part of the ISAF in Afghanistan will let the soldiers acquire skills needed to rebuff possible Russian aggression, - RBC quotes. - Our units will stay in Afghanistan for two years but in case of a new war with Russia Georgia will have to revoke them and hurl all effort to suppress Russian aggression" .
Both the Pentagon and personally James Conway were puzzled by the minister's revelations since it was repeatedly stated in the US military authority that training the Georgian army was not aimed at the war against Russia. The MC Commandant also said: the Georgian army training program doesn't include elements of military operations against Russia. After Sikharulidze's statement Washington considered it necessary to reiterate its position. Apparently the Georgian minister got wise too. A few hours later he backtracked specifying: "I did not mean to imply that the training would be used for military missions other than in Afghanistan, - Gazeta.ru quotes. - It's standard training that all troops going to Afghanistan receive". Then the part of Sikharulidze's interview on the possibility of a new war with Russia was disavowed, Voice of Russia informs.