Gen. James Conway, commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, is visiting Tbilisi discussing with the Georgian leadership a training program to prepare a Georgian battalion for deployment in Afghanistan.
Gen. Conway met on August 21 with Defense Minister Davit Sikharulidze.
First group of U.S. marine trainers arrived in Georgia on August 15. According to the U.S. embassy the training, which will start from September 1, will focus on skills necessary for Georgian forces to operate in “a counterinsurgency environment in Afghanistan” and “no weapons will be provided to the Georgians as part of this training.”
And Pentagon spokesman, Geoff Morrell, said that the training mission “is not designed to get them [the Georgian battalion] ready for any internal defense.”
But The Associated Press reported on August 21: the Georgian Defense Minister “Sikharulidze told The Associated Press in an interview that the training by the U.S. Marine Corps will not only give his troops the skills necessary to fight alongside NATO allies in Afghanistan, but also could come into play if another war broke out between Georgia and Russia.”
Later, however, The Associated Press reported that within hours after the interview Sikharulidze retracted his earlier comments and said in a second interview that he did not mean to imply that the training would be used for military missions other than in Afghanistan.
And in a statement released late on August 21, the Georgian Defense Ministry said that The Associated Press in its initial report on the matter “misconstrues” comments made by Sikharulidze.