Georgians should be proud of the many contributions and tremendous sacrifices made in Afghanistan as part of the international war on terror. Georgian troops arrived in Afghanistan in 2004. Georgia became the largest non-NATO and the largest per capita troop contributor to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan by late 2012. At its peak deployment, Georgia provided two full infantry battalions serving with United States forces in Helmand province, primarily a United States Marine Corps (USMC) area. Since the beginning of their mission, more than 11,000 Georgian soldiers have served in Afghanistan. In June 2016, Georgia still had 861 troops, the largest non-NATO contributor to the Resolute Support Mission follow-on to ISAF, second only to the United States.
While the Georgian combat mission in Helmand ended in July 2014, Georgia pledged troops to the new NATO-led non-combat, training, advisory, and assistance mission called “Resolute Support” launched in January, 2015. At various times, Georgia has also deployed an infantry company serving with the French contingent in Kabul, medical personnel within the former Lithuanian Provincial Reconstruction Team and some individual staff officers.
Georgia’s commitment to supporting international forces has come at a price. Since 2010, 31 Georgian servicemen have died, all in the Helmand campaign, and over 400 wounded, including 35 amputees. Many of the amputees received medical treatment in the United States, mostly at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) in Bethesda, MD. Some soldiers with severe burns and traumatic brain injuries were treated at other specialized military medical centers. The amputees included single, double, and triple loss of limbs. At WRNMMC, they received excellent care including state-of-the-art prosthetics and rehabilitation. Some of the wounded warriors had their families residing with them during their stay in Bethesda, and two of the amputee families gave birth to children who will have dual citizenship.
During their rehabilitation, some lasting several years, the soldiers were often visited by Georgians living in the Washington, D.C. area, as well as Americans who learned of their sacrifices. At the recommendation of the Georgian Embassy, the Wounded Warrior Mentor Program (WWMP) started an English as a Second Language program to help the wounded soldiers benefit from their time in the lengthy treatment and healing involved in amputations. The WWMP, with a dedicated group of volunteers and six Georgian wounded with their relatives who act as Non-Medical Assistants (NMA) and two Georgian medical personnel, met weekly at Bethesda to study English as a second language, and also to socialize, watch sports and share food; Georgian food of course.
One of the most severely wounded was LTC Alex Tugushi, a highly decorated battalion commander of the Georgian forces. LTC Tugushi, served two eight month tours in Iraq, and two in Afghanistan, the second cut short by his wounds from a roadside bomb. While recuperating at WRNMMC he was visited by many USMC officers and President Barack Obama. LTC Tugushi has since been promoted to full Colonel and lives in Georgia. By 2015, all the soldiers at WRNMMC had returned to Georgia to regain their lives with family and friends.
United States Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta visited the Georgian 31st Battalion in March 2012. “I wanted to come here and thank you for your sacrifices,” the secretary said. The secretary read a letter he said Tugushi had given him for the battalion. Dated March 12, the letter read, in part: “It has been an honor to serve with you. You are Georgian heroes. … The Armed Forces of Georgia, serving together with international forces in Afghanistan, are making a large contribution……” “It is a great honor to serve shoulder to shoulder with the United States in one of the most troubled regions of Afghanistan,” the letter continued.
“Unfortunately, I could not complete my service with you. But I am proud of all of you — those who have fallen and those who continue to serve. You are all heroes who will go down in Georgian history.”
When the secretary finished reading Tugushi’s letter, he said it expressed his own feelings about the accomplishments of Georgian troops over the past eight years as part of the 50-nation coalition.
“You are an example of that international partnership, fighting for stability in Afghanistan,” Panetta said.
Georgia, a small country that more than lived up to its commitment to the international community has yet to be accorded a Membership Action Plan which would pave the way for Georgia to become a member of NATO.
The Central and East European Coalition (CEEC), representing more than 20 million Central and Eastern European Americans, strongly backs the United States’ continued unconditional commitment to upholding the NATO Treaty as well as U.S. support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all Central and Eastern European nations. Our organization stands firm in its belief that America’s close cooperation with all NATO allies and partners is fundamental to ensuring U.S. and European security. The CEEC urges both the current and future Administrations to continue developing allied relations with all NATO members and transatlantic partners, and to take such action as deemed necessary to maintain security of the Alliance, including the European Reassurance Initiative.
The renewed aggressive behavior and actions of Russia against Central and Eastern European nations have raised the importance of NATO’s credibility and cohesiveness for regional stability. In February 2016, then-NATO Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Philip Breedlove stated at a hearing of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee that “Russia has chosen to be an adversary and poses a long-term existential threat to the United States and to our European allies and partners.” Earlier this year the CEEC sponsored a policy forum on NATO’s stance on Russia on Capitol Hill. A major theme of our discussion characterized Russia’s increasing aggression since 2008 not only in terms of fanning regional conflicts but as a fundamental assault on the post-World War II international order.
At the Warsaw Summit in July 2016, NATO stated it was fully prepared to defend the alliance and pledged an increase in military spending, in response to Russia’s unpredictable and aggressive behavior in the region. The CEEC believes the commitment by the United States to NATO countries should be based on collective defense, shared values, and democratic principles, as well as support for regional partners. We have, and continue to support the principle of NATO’s Open Door policy, for all willing and qualified nations.
The Central and Eastern European region is facing a multitude of threats from Russia. It is imperative for NATO members and partners to share collective knowledge in key security areas for combating a multitude of hybrid war forms, including cyber, media and economic manipulation, and destabilization in energy security. The CEEC supports U.S. continued commitment and leadership in addressing these threats.
The security of the United States lies in the peaceful expansion of democracy, not in the appeasement of aggressor states making imperial claims. Proactive U.S. leadership is vital to NATO’s continued effectiveness, to protect peace and security in Europe. The crisis driven by Russia in Central and Eastern Europe, and in Ukraine specifically, will not just go away. In an informationally interconnected and economically interdependent world, the United States must take the lead in promoting international norms and consolidating geopolitical stability.
1612 K Street, NW, Suite 1200 Washington, D.C. 20006
John “Tsotne” Dadiani, a member of the Board of Directors of the Georgian Association represented the Association at the mark-up and reports there was widespread support for the bi-partisan resolution co-sponsored by Representatives Gerald Connolly (D-VA), and Ted Poe (R-TX). The committee members recognized that Georgia has pursued a peaceful resolution of the conflict with Russia over the territories of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia. Several of the members compared Russia’s actions which were reminiscent of the old Soviet Union during cold war days, and that Georgia deserves to maintain these territories, and to have free elections this fall. While the measure was passed by the committee, some representatives expressed concerns that the resolution would antagonize Russia, and that Georgia was responsible for Russia’s actions in the region. Several members said the US needs to improve relations with Russia.
Earlier in May, the Georgian Association recognized the efforts of the two Congressmen on behalf of Georgia’s territorial integrity by honoring them at its annual Independence day celebration.
The Georgian Service celebrated its 65thanniversary on May 26, 2016 at VOA headquarters in Washington DC. Several dignitaries were in attendance including Georgia’s ambassador to the United States, Archil Gegeshidze, the Honorable Kenneth Yalowitz, former U.S. Ambassador to Georgia, and the Honorable Kurt Volker, Executive Director, the McCain Institute for International Leadership and former U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO. The current U.S. Ambassador to Georgia, Ian Kelly delivered a message by video. Anna Kalandadze, Chief of the Georgian Service moderated the event. The Georgian Association has been an active supporter of the Georgian Service–indeed several Board members’ fathers worked for the service for many years. And, the first director of the Service, Irakli Orbeliani, was a founding member of the Georgian Association. Congratulations to the Georgian Service on its over six decades of fulfilling its mission of providing objective and timely news to the people of Georgia.
Georgian Association Officials Lead Discussions on Georgia’s Security at Washington, D.C. Conference, co-hosted by Levan Mikeladze Foundation for the Caucasus Studies
On May 12, 2016, the Levan Mikeladze Foundation and the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at Johns Hopkins University School of International Studies (SAIS) co-hosted a conference “Strategic Pillars of Security for Georgia:Trans-Atlantic Integration, Economy and Democracy”. Former President of the Georgian Association Mamuka Tsereteli and President of the Levan Mikeladze Foundation of the Caucasus Studies Tina Mikeladze opened the conference on behalf of the organizers. The conference brought together in two panels noted scholars, policy analysts, program implementors and representatives of the U.S. Department of State. The Georgian government was represented by the State Minister on European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Mr. David Bakradze, and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs David Dondua. The Georgian Embassy was represented by both Ambassador Archil Gegeshidze and Deputy Chief of Mission George Khelashvili. The Georgian representatives expressed concern about the “creeping annexation” of their country and their disappointment at the lack of movement towards a Membership Action Plan (MAP) for NATO. For their part, a number of American panelists, including Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Bridget Brink reiterated continued US support for Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration.
There was much discussion, particularly during a second panel moderated by the GA President Elisso Kvitashvili, on Georgia’s ongoing need to implement internal reforms that some panelists believed would enhance Georgia’s overall security through greater legitimacy of the government. Several panelists decried the lack of job creation, poor social service delivery, and lack of innovation in the business sector as stumbling blocks to Georgia’s economic development. There was agreement that the West needed to devote more attention on Georgia especially in her role as a hub in the developing Silk Road Transport Corridor.
The conference was followed by a reception celebrating Georgia’s upcoming Independence Day. This year, 2016, Georgia celebrates its 25th anniversary of regaining of independence. This year’s special guest of the reception was the co-chair of the Georgia Caucus in the House of Representatives of the US Congress Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-Va) who, together with Congressman Ted Poe (R, Texas) is a co-sponsor of a draft congressional resolution supporting Georgia’s territorial integrity. Congressman Connolly received a special award from the President of the Association Elisso Kvitashvili.
Washington, DC – On Wednesday, May 20, 2009, the Georgian Association honored the United States Senator John McCain’s outstanding contributions to building strong U.S. – Georgia relations. Senator McCain received the award from Mr. Mamuka Tsereteli, President of the Association, at the traditional annual reception.
Sen. McCain acknowledged the Georgian people for the remarkable accomplishment of transforming the country into an emerging democracy. In his address the Senator from Arizona told the guests, “Rarely have I seen, anywhere in the world, the kind of determination and resilience that is so clearly present in the hearts of Georgians everywhere. The United States is proud to call Georgia a friend, and I take great pride in considering myself a friend of Georgia.” Senator McCain also stressed the importance of continuing U.S. support for Georgia.
Other speakers and distinguished guests included the United States Representative Allyson Y. Schwartz (PA), Co-chair of the Congressional Georgia Caucus, Mr. Batu Kutelia, Ambassador of Georgia, Mr. Frank Greinke, Honorary Consul of Georgian in California, Ambassador William Courtney, and Mses. Elisabeth Kvitashvili and Nino Japaridze, members of the Georgian Association Board.
The Georgian Association in the United States of America (GA) is the oldest nonpartisan nationwide membership organization of Georgian- Americans and friends of Georgia. It strives to strengthen and support the Georgian-American community on a national level, and supports an independent, democratic and prosperous Georgia.