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21 Jul, 2007 02:50

Georgia sends more troops to Iraq

Georgia is increasing its contingent in Iraq to 2,000 troops. Some 1200 contract soldiers are to be deployed to a military base in Kuwait for two weeks’ training before heading into the country. Georgia's armed forces have served in the conflict zone sinc

Georgia already has 850 soldiers in Iraq, and by increasing this number to 2,000 it will become the second biggest per-capita contributor to the coalition.
30-year-old father of three, Major Shavlego Tabatadze has already served in Iraq, and now he is going back for a second tour of duty.

“Heading to Iraq for a second time, sure, I’m still worried, but the seven months I spent there on my first trip have played their part and now my worries have changed. This time the only thing I’m thinking about is how to perform our mission well and how to bring my men safely home,” says Shavlego Tabatadze.

And though Shavlego’s young family will miss him, they support his decision to serve in Iraq.

“It's not Shavlego’s first trip, so we are emotionally prepared. We fully accept his decision to go back. I do understand why he is undertaking this mission, and I will take care of our family, and make sure he gets the welcome home he deserves,” says Shalvego’s wife Eka Bakradze.
Georgia has had forces in Iraq since 2004, and experts say that by increasing its troop contingent in Iraq at a time when other countries are reducing theirs, Georgia is trying to show the world that it is a reliable and capable partner, and that Georgia can contribute to international security.

“Sending troops to Iraq and other places is part of the foreign policy of course, it’s al interlinked. It’s linked to NATO membership and to Georgia’s European aspirations, as well as our determination to secure our role and place on the world arena,” explains Temuri Yakobashvili, Executive Vice President of the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies.

Though no Georgian soldiers have been killed in Iraq, several have been wounded, and the troops preparing to leave are aware that they are embarking on a dangerous mission. Although do not all say this, their main priority will be to come home safely.