During his trip to Afghanistan U.S. Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta, visited Georgian troops stationed in the Helmand province on March 14, the U.S. Department of Defense said.
“You are an example of that international partnership, fighting for stability in Afghanistan,” Panetta told the Georgian troops at the Combat Outpost Shukvani, which President Saakashvili visited last month.
“I can’t tell you how much we appreciate your service to your country and to Afghanistan,” the U.S. Defense Secretary said.
Georgia, which has up to 940 troops in Afghanistan, most of them in the Helmand province, will send an additional battalion increasing its contribution to NATO-led ISAF operation up to 1,685 this year.
Georgia has lost 15 soldiers in Afghanistan, all of them in the Helmand province.
While visiting Georgian servicemen from the 31st light infantry battalion, the U.S. Defense Secretary read to troops a letter from their former commander, Lt. Col. Alexander Tugushi, who has lost both legs in a roadside bomb attack in December and is now undergoing treatment in the United States at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda. President Obama visited Lt. Col. Tugushi on March 2 when he was in the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland to meet with wounded troops from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.