Georgia to pull its troops from Iraq
The commander of the 2,000 Georgian troops in Iraq said Saturday that his soldiers would leave the country to join the fight against Russia over a separatist Georgian republic.
Though relatively small in number, the Georgians have made up the third-largest force of foreign troops in Iraq, behind the United States and Britain. They mostly have been deployed to bolster security along the border with Iran, where U.S. officials say bombs that cause most American troop deaths are smuggled into the country.
Georgia, which is a U.S. ally, launched an operation Friday to assert authority over breakaway South Ossetia, prompting clashes with troops sent in from Russia, which backs the republic’s drive for independence.
“Because of this, we are forced to redeploy our troops to defend our country,” said Col. Bondo Maisuradze, chief of Georgia’s military operations in Iraq. “If you see the pictures on TV, you will know we are in a hurry to get home as soon as possible.”
But the contingent will need U.S. logistical support to withdraw, and there was no indication how quickly the redeployment would happen. Georgia has had troops in Iraq since 2004.
A U.S. military spokesman, Army Maj. John C. Hall, said “all transportation options” for getting the Georgian troops home were being considered. Hall said the unplanned redeployment would have some effect on the operation but adjustments would be made to compensate.
“We do not anticipate their departure will result in a significant long-term impact on the overall security situation in Iraq,” he said.
Meanwhile, the U.S. military reported Saturday that a soldier was killed by a bomb blast Friday night, bringing the total of U.S. troop deaths since the war began in 2003 to at least 4,137, according to the independent icasualties.org. Two soldiers were wounded in the attack in Baghdad.