Georgia is calling home 1,000 of its 2,000 troops in Iraq for a general mobilization to fight Russian-backed separatists in South Ossetia. Georgia’s national security chief Kakha Lomaia said Tbilisi ordered the withdrawal to “defend ourselves from Russian aggression.” (AGI, Aug. 8) Late Aug. 8, Georgian officials reported at least one Russian air-strike, on the Black Sea port of Poti. They said Russian bombers were flying over Georgian territory and that the presidential offices and residence in Tbilisi had been evacuated. (NYT, Aug. 9)
Earlier in the day, President Mikheil Saakashvili said in a televised address that Georgia was in control of nearly all South Ossetia, but the battle was not over: “If we stand together, there is no force that can defeat Georgia, defeat freedom, defeat a nation striving for freedom—no matter how many planes, tanks, and missiles they use against us.”
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev accused Georgia of provoking the crisis, telling state TV that “the guilty will get the punishment they deserve.” The Russian Defense Ministry announced that more troops have been dispatched to South Ossetia, nominally to support Russian peacekeeping troops already on the ground. Reports from South Ossetia indicate that dozens of Russian tanks and armored vehicles have moved into the conflict zone—along with hundreds of Russian “volunteers” ready to assist the separatist forces. (EurasiaNet, Aug. 8)
The Pentagon said there were no plans to redeploy the estimated 130 US troops and civilian contractors stationed in the area around Tblisi. “They are not involved in any way in this conflict between the Russian military and the Georgian military,” said Lt. Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for the US European Command. (AFP, Aug. 8)
See our last post on Georgia.
Georgia out of Iraq
The US is in the process of flying all 2,000 Georgian troops home from Iraq, at Tbilisi’s request. Georgia was the third-largest contributor of coalition forces after the U.S. and Britain, and most of its troops were stationed near the Iranian border in southeastern Iraq. (AP, Aug. 10)