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24 Feb, 2010 04:10

Georgia to boost Afghan contingent

Georgia says it is ready to enlarge its military contingent in Afghanistan to 700 troops later this year. The country has also offered its territory as a route for the supply of arms.

The announcement came as the US special envoy Richard Holbrooke visited a Georgian army training centre.

Many believe Georgia’s President Saakashvili is hoping the move will help the country’s NATO membership bid.

Petre Mamradze, an opposition leader, believes that by sending more troops to Afghanistan, President Saakashvili is hoping to make up for failed efforts on democracy.

“We support the idea that Georgia should take part in this anti-terrorist operation, but many experts say ‘Why should Georgia send so disproportionately many troops to Afghanistan?’” asks Mamradze. “And the point is that Saakashvili wants to gain more sympathy from Washington. He hopes that Washington closes its eyes to human rights violations in Georgia. It would not happen. He just wants to show how very devoted he is.”

Member of the European Parliament and Dutch Labor Party, Thijs Berman, agrees with Mamradze. He also believes the move is meant to please the United States.

“They want to honor their commitments to the United States and to show that they are consistent allies,” Berman told RT.

However he has no illusions about Georgia joining NATO in the foreseeable future. The country is “far from it” he says.

While Georgia is keen on participating in the NATO – led operation, in the Netherlands, the issue of retaining troops in Afghanistan led to the collapse of the government.

The Dutch queen has announced national elections are to be held on June 9, which is a year earlier than planned.

Labor party officers withdrew from the governing coalition after the party refused to support the extension of Dutch troops’ presence in Afghanistan.

Matthew Hoh, a former US foreign service official and Marine Corps Captain, told RT the move shows that more and more people think sending troops to the region is pointless and has no benefit for coalition members.

“I think that folks in the west aren’t sure what the benefits are, what are the benefits to their country, to their country’s security, their country’s prosperity in having thousands of troops deployed half way around the world,” he told RT.

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