A screengrab from July, 2011 report of NATO's web TV channel showing Georgian soldiers from the 32nd infantry battalion patrolling in Musa Qaleh (or Musa Qala) in north of the Helmand province of Afghanistan. One of the Georgian camps in Musa Qaleh sits on land that used to be occupied by the Soviet infantry battalion in 1980s; at the time as part of the Soviet Union, Georgians also were among the Soviet troops. Total of 5,000 Georgians fought as part of the Soviet troops in the ten-year war in Afghanistan; at least 125 Georgians were killed and over thousand wounded.
Corporal Shalva Pailodze from the 31st infantry battalion of the third brigade, deployed in the Helmand province of Afghanistan, was "killed as a result of a fatal injury during the attack by Taliban insurgents," the Georgia Ministry of Defense said late on January 6.
This is the second fatality among the Georgian soldiers in a week and the twelfth one since Georgia joined the NATO-led operation in November, 2009. The Georgian troops in Afghanistan operate without caveats.
Corporal Pailodze, who joined the Georgian armed force in 2008, had the Medal for Participation in International Operations, according to MoD.
The 31st infantry battalion is now in the Helmand province for its second, six-month deployment.
The battalion was the first Georgian military unit, which was deployed in Helmand to serve alongside with the U.S. marines, in April, 2010; during its first six-month deployment, the battalion lost five of its soldiers.
On December 20 the Parliament approved President Saakashvili’s request to send one additional infantry battalion to Afghanistan on top of 936 Georgian soldiers who already serve as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
As a result, after sending one more battalion – that is 749 soldiers – Georgia will become the largest non-NATO contributor to ASAF with total of 1,685 troops.
Georgia’s first contribution to the Afghan operation came in 2004 when 50 soldiers were briefly deployed in the country under the German command as part of ensuring security during the presidential elections.
In November, 2009 Georgia deployed 173 soldiers in Kabul under the French command and in following year Georgia increased presence in Afghanistan by sending an infantry battalion in the Helmand province serving along with the U.S. marines.
Earlier this year Georgia also sent 11 military instructors to Kandahar, according to the Georgian MoD.
Praising Georgia for its significant contribution to the ISAF mission, NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said when he visited Tbilisi in November that there was no direct link between participation in the Afghan operation and the NATO membership.
“The Georgian contribution to our operation in Afghanistan also helps to improve interoperability between Georgian armed forces and NATO armed forces… But having said that I would also like to stress that there is no direct link between contributions to our operations and future membership of NATO; it is one factor, but there are many elements that have to be fulfilled before the membership can materialize,” Rasmussen said on November 9.
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