Friday, August 29, 2008

Were U.S. Troops in Georgia?

Russia's Prime Minister Putin charged that the were Americans in Georgia. According to the New York Times:
On Thursday, Mr. Putin, now prime minister, also said Russian defense officials believed that United States citizens were in the conflict area supporting the Georgian military when it attacked the separatist region of South Ossetia.

“Even during the cold war, during the time of tough confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States, we have always avoided direct clashes between our civilians, let alone our servicemen,” Mr. Putin said. “We have serious reasons to believe that directly, in the combat zone, citizens of the United States were present.”

“If the facts are confirmed,” he added, “that United States citizens were present in the combat zone, that means only one thing — that they could be there only on the direct instruction of their leadership. And if this is so, then it means that American citizens are in the combat zone, performing their duties, and they can only do that following a direct order from their leader, and not on their own initiative.”
The same article reported on the White House response to Putin's charges:
In Washington, the White House spokeswoman, Dana M. Perino, dismissed Mr. Putin’s remarks. “To suggest that the United States orchestrated this on behalf of a political candidate just sounds not rational,” she said.

She added, “It also sounds like his defense officials who said they believe this to be true are giving him really bad advice.”
GlobalSecurity.Org has this (undated) on its website:
Immediate Response 08 (IR08) was an annual bilateral security-cooperation exercise conducted between the U.S. and NATO and coalition partners. The annual, bilateral security cooperation exercise is conducted between US, NATO and coalition partners, to focus on interoperability training and theater security cooperation. This year, IR08 is being conducted in the Republic of Georgia. The participants are the United States, the Republic of Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Ukraine. The purpose of the exercise is to increase the cooperation and partnership between U.S. and Georgian forces while preparing the Georgian military for operations in Iraq.

Approximately 1,000 personnel from U.S. Army Europe’s Southern European Task Force, the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, the state of Georgia Army National Guard, Army Reserve, U.S. Marine Reserve, Sailors and Airmen trained alongside 600 Soldiers from Georgia and other European nations. IR08 builds on lessons learned from previous training and operations by giving commanders and their staffs a practical exercise in organizing, controlling, and supporting coalition stability and security operations. The two/three-week exercise included a command post exercise, situational training lanes and a live-fire exercise.

Officers, senior enlisted and Navy corpsman from 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, had an opportunity to meet and greet their Georgian counterparts July 13, 2008. This began the cultural exchange before the subsequent training for Operation Immediate Response 2008, a joint operation between Georgian Armed Forces and United States Armed Forces.

About 300 Georgia National Guard Soldiers arrived in Tiblisi, Georgia, on 15 July 2008 for Immediate Response 2008, an international exercise to help build relationships with coaliton partners from several Eastern European nations. Soldiers and Marines from the United States, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Ukraine conducted this joint training exercise at Vaziani Military Base and the surrounding area.
I found the following on a blog, The Pentagon Brief:
Over 1,000 US servicemembers, DoD civilian employees and contractors are in the Republic of Georgia even as Russian attack aircraft and tanks continue their assault.

About 130 Americans are stationed in Georgia to train the Georgian armed forces for peacekeeping and anti-terrorist operations, including preparing units for deployment to Iraq.

Approximately 1,000 additional personnel from U.S. Army Europe’s Southern European Task Force, the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, the state of Georgia Army National Guard, Army Reserve, U.S. Marine Reserve, Sailors and Airmen are in Georgia for the Immediate Response 2008 multinational training exercise. Soldiers from other European nations participated in Immediate Response 08 as well.
Googling "Operation Immediate Response", I got a hit from a U.S. Marines website that was down, but the cached story was confirmatory that U.S. troops were in Georgia in July.

Stars and Stripes, the U.S. military's newspaper, reported on Tuesday, August 12, 2008;
U.S. personnel responsible for training members of the Georgian military remain stationed inside the volatile country, where fighting erupted Friday between Russia and Georgia over the breakaway province of South Ossetia.

The U.S. European Command said on Monday that there were no plans at this time to withdraw the U.S. military trainers from the country. There are still 127 U.S. trainers in Georgia, where the American forces had been preparing the Georgian army for operations in Iraq......

Regarding the military personnel, EUCOM stated that they are not engaged in the conflict and are removed from where the fighting is happening.

In addition to the trainers, 1,000 soldiers from the Vicenza, Italy-based Southern European Task Force (Airborne) and the Kaiserslautern-based 21st Theater Sustainment Command, along with Marine reservists with the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines out of Ohio, and the state of Georgia’s Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 121st Infantry recently participated in "Immediate Response 2008."

That exercise, which had the U.S. troops operating from Vaziani, concluded on Thursday. That base, near the capital of Tbilisi, was bombed by Russian aircraft over the weekend, Georgian officials said.
There seems to be little controversy over this history, as reported by China View:
In June of 1992, Russia, Georgia and South Ossetia established peacekeeping forces, which were responsible of implementing peacekeeping mission in the conflict region.

On August 8 of this year, Georgia troops marched into South Ossetia and bombed the capital city of South Ossetia, which worsened the situation there immediately.
Comment: The New York Times might well have reported that there were U.S. forces in Georgia at the time of the Georgian incursion into South Ossetia.

I suppose it is possible that the Russians mistook the purposes of the American troops in Georgia, or that they are taking advantage of their presence for a disinformation campaign.

The situation illustrates the dangers in use of military maneuvers in this region. It is easy to see how they could have been misinterpreted by the Georgians or the Russians, or indeed how they could be used as a pretext by either of those parties.

On the other hand, I recall the stories, stories that seem well founded, that during the 1980 Reagan-Carter election campaign the Republicans held secret discussions with the Iranians encouraging them to keep the hostages that were taken from our Embassy; Carter certainly lost that election due to the hostage crisis. JAD

No comments: