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Georgia to continue ISAF mission beyond 2014

24 October 2013 15:56 (UTC+04:00)
Georgia to continue ISAF mission beyond 2014

By Nazrin Gadimova

Georgian military will continue its mission in Afghanistan beyond 2014, Georgian Defense Minister Irakli Alasania said at a meeting with foreign colleagues in the ministerial council at the NATO headquarters in Brussels on October 23.

The meeting was opened by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who emphasized the transfer of responsibility for security in Afghanistan to local forces. He praised the growing capabilities of Afghanistan's 350,000-strong army and police forces, which are now at the head of fighting Taliban and other insurgents across the country.

"They have shown they are up to the job. They have mounted operations across the country with minimal or no [coalition] support," he said. "Currently, they are leading more than 1,000 patrols a day. They are planning and conducting complex operations in all parts of the country and they are developing their skills in areas such as helicopter air support. All of this is to achieve the best possible position from which they will assume full responsibility for security at the end of 2014."

The Secretary General emphasized that allies and partners will continue to stand by Afghanistan after the ISAF mission ends in December 2014.

"We still have work to do," Rasmussen said. "This includes agreeing a legal framework with the Afghan government on the status of our forces."

Speaking at the meeting, Georgian Defense Minister Irakli Alasania reiterated the government's decision to continue the Georgian military's mission in Afghanistan beyond 2014.

"Further convergence with NATO is necessary for Georgia," Alasania said after the meeting. "Our troops, our representatives perform their duties professionally. This is seen by all. Everyone sees Georgia as a strong and good partner. Now, political and economical preparation for NATO membership is important to our country, and when a historic opportunity presents itself, we will surely become a member of NATO. This is the time factor. Actually NATO's has already taken this decision."

As a significant contributor to the Euro-Atlantic security, Georgia is closely involved in NATO-led operations and its contribution to the ISAF operation in Afghanistan is of significant importance. Presently Georgia is the second largest troop contributor to Afghanistan among the non-NATO states. The country has participated in the international missions of the NATO in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. Georgia has also expressed its willingness to participate in the operations in Mali.

The country's bilateral relations with NATO were established in 1994 when the country joined the Partnership for Peace program (PfP). At the informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers in 2006 it was decided to launch Intensified Dialogue on Membership Issues with the South Caucasus republic.

Georgia is currently a candidate for NATO membership and the U.S. is actively supporting its membership bid. Accession to NATO is one of the top foreign policy priorities of Georgia. Soon after the declaration of independence, Georgia joined the North Atlantic Cooperation Council.

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