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Georgia is striving for a fight again?19.03.2013 | 20:19
The peacekeeping operation in Afghanistan is not over yet, and Georgia is going to send its servicemen into another country raging from armed uprisings - Mali. This was announced by Georgian Defense Minister Irakli Alasania in Brussels. This is about the sending of military experts to this African country. What is planning the Prime Minister of Georgia Bidzina Ivanishvili, and what is the future of Georgia's participation in such international operations?
Georgian soldiers have not left Afghanistan, where the international mission "Aysaf" completes in 2014, and the Georgian government is already striving for another hot spot, even more remote from Georgia - Mali. This is North African country, where civil strife has been lasting for many years. Mali is undergoing several conflicts simultaneously. The most difficult situation is in the north, where the Islamist groups are acting, and Tuareg tribal uprising have happened there several times. Since January 2013, troops from several African countries and France are helping Malian army to suppress the rebellion of Tuareg, who are supported by the Islamist groups.
The Foreign Ministers of the EU member states have decided to send 450 trainers and other servicemen to train soldiers of Malian army. "We want the African armed forces to be able to fulfill its mission to stabilize the situation in the north of Mali", said the German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. According to the decision of the federal government, Bundeswehr soldiers will participate in the EU mission.
According to European diplomats, one of the priorities of the experts arriving in Mali will include a series of consultations. Direct training of Malian troops is to begin in April. As noted by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy for the European Union Catherine Ashton, the EU mission in Mali is "very important" for the country.
Ivanishvili's Cabinet has received from Ashton an invitation to participate in the operation in late last year, but until recently it was kept in secret. "Now we are specifying the detail of Georgian involvement in the operation", Defense Minister Irakli Alasania said in Brussels. "After accepting an invitation from the EU leadership, we have considered it and decided that Georgia was willing to participate in the operation. This is part of its interests and promotes further integration into the European structures", Alasania said speaking at the Brussels Forum.
Some of the details of the operation have become known. As stated by the chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Defense and Security Irakli Sesiashvili in an exclusive interview with GeorgiaTimes, this is about sending Georgian military experts to Mali. "Initially, two instructors, one of whom is sapper, will depart there", said Sesiashvili. "It is not about the participation of Georgian soldiers in combat operations. Nevertheless, for our country, this fact is of great importance. Firstly, this is the recognition of Georgia as a partner in the EU mission; and secondly, this is the recognition of the fact that Georgia has higher-level military experts, who are capable to participate in such operations. We'll select several candidates, conduct a certain test, and only after that Georgian specialists will depart to Mali. Dates are yet to be announced, but the political decision gas been made. We're already clarifying technical details", Sesiashvili said in an interview to GeorgiaTimes.
But we can look at the events from the other side. Information on Georgia's intention to participate in the operation in Mali became public at the moment of a kind of wrangle between the MPs and Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili. Deputies from the European People's Party even called on the Georgian Prime Minister "not to bury the European future of the country". Perhaps Ivanishvili wants to vindicate himself in the eyes of the European public and to remove all the questions about the foreign policy of Georgia. Coincidences in politics are not often.
Some analysts also point out that Ivanishvili's foreign policy is focused not on Russia or the U.S., but rather on the European Union. Considering the fact that the billionaire has long lived in France and has a serious business, these assumptions have a basis.
As for the future of Georgia as a country sending its soldiers to hot spots, among experts there is no single position. "I do not think that the operation in Mali will be similar in scale or duration as the Afghan, despite the complexity of the situation there", political expert Georgi Khutsishvili said in an interview with GeorgiaTimes. "As for Georgia's future in such operations, I do not think we should actively participate in international military operations and send our troops overseas on the first call. But in Mali our military will not directly participate in hostilities. On the other hand, this is a sign of solidarity with the EU. Moreover, thus the government shows that our country's focus on integration into NATO and the European Union remains unchanged", said Khutsishvili.
Until now, the Georgian military have participated in peacekeeping operations in Kosovo and Iraq. Currently, 1,675 Georgian soldiers and officers are on duty in Afghanistan. Ivanishvili's government has stated they would not withdraw troops from the country, but also would not strengthen the grouping as the Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili was going to do.