Georgian Defence Ministry on possible offer of training camp to US for Syrian rebels

  • The US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and his Georgian counterpart Irakli Alasania in Tbilisi on Sep 7, 2014. Photo, 23 Sep 2014 - 18:09, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgia has offered to host a training facility for Syrian rebels as a part of the US-led war against Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq, an American administration official was quoted as saying in a Foreign Policy (FP) article.

The article, published online today, said Georgia’s offer was being touted as a potential boost for the Obama administration.

The article, which was based on a statement by an anonymous American administration official, stated "if accepted, the offer could supplement the White House's existing plan to train 5,000 Syrian rebels in Saudi Arabia in the next year to fight against the extremists now controlling swaths of both Iraq and Syria.”

Soon after the article was published, Georgia’s Defence Ministry issued a written statement said that "Georgia, as a strategic partner of NATO and the compatible state with NATO was considering the format of participation in achieving the coalition’s objectives against terrorism (ISIS).”

"Together with international partners and coalition members [we] are discussing different ways to neutralise the threat of terrorism, which poses real threats to peaceful and democratic development in the region.”

"None of the options discussed with our allies does not consider sending Georgian military units in to the military operation zone. The final decision will be made at the highest political level,” the statement read.

Three days earlier Georgia’s Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze delivered a speech at a special session of the UN Security Council that underlined Georgia "looks forward to working with the United States and other coalition partners in the coming days and weeks to identify areas where Georgia’s contribution can provide added value."

Furthermore, the Minister underlined Georgia's valuable experience from combat missions, as well as successful transformation of its defence, could be "effectively used to enhance capabilities of Iraq and other security forces as they engage in the fight against ISIL”.

Georgian Ambassador to the US Archil Gegeshidze confirmed the anonymous US official's remarks in an interview with Foreign Policy. "[The training center] was something we offered but it is still under consideration,” Gegeshidze told the global magazine.

The potential scale of the Georgia-based training program remained unclear but Gegeshidze noted that it could host anti-IS fighters from multiple countries, not just Syria. "It's a counterterrorism training centre for any nationality,” he said.

An article stated Georgian officials made the offer to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in closed-door meetings when the US official visited Tbilisi in early September. During the trip, Georgia became the first country to sign onto the anti-IS effort outside of the "core coalition" of Britain, France, Germany, Canada, Australia, Italy, Poland, and Denmark, the article claimed.

The Pentagon declined to say whether the Georgian proposal had been accepted or to offer a timeframe for when a decision would be reached.

"Georgia continues to demonstrate its commitment to promote and uphold peace and stability as it has in the past with strong support to international missions in Iraq and Afghanistan," a Pentagon official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"The government of Georgia is coordinating internally on a way ahead, but is positive in its resolve to assist." The Pentagon declined to say whether the Georgian proposal had been accepted or to offer a timeframe for when a decision would be reached, PF’s article read.