Defense Minister, Irakli Alasania, said public announcement about President Saakashvili’s planned visit to Afghanistan in advance of the trip was a surprise for him and added that planned visits by high-ranking officials to Afghanistan were usually kept in secret until arrival.
President’s administration announced about Mikheil Saakashvili’s intention to spend New Year’s Eve with the Georgian troops in the Helmand province on December 25.
“Such a public statement was unexpected for us,” Defense Minister Irakli Alasania told Maestro TV’s late-night political talk-show on December 26. “The fact in itself that the commander-in-chief will spend New Year’s Eve with our troops in Afghanistan is positive. But because of security reasons, it would have been much better if we had kept it confidential, as it normally happens during the visits of leaders in such hotspots.”
“That’s a routine not to leak information [about planned visit] in advance. But I do not see any disaster in this; the armed forces will take all the required security measures,” he said.
Alasania also indicated that amid ongoing search and rescue operation, which is underway for a missing Georgian soldier, who disappeared in the Helmand province on December 19, President’s planned visit might be an additional security burden for Georgian troops in Helmand; Alasania, however, also stressed that preparations for Saakashvili’s visit started before the Georgian soldier disappeared.
Asked if he would advise the President to cancel the visit, Alasania responded that he would not because Saakashvili “will not accept such an advice.”
He also added that “we are capable to maximally heighten security” measures in order for the visit to proceed without troubles.
On missing Georgian soldier, Alasania said that probability that the soldier was alive “is now higher and we have more reasons now to be optimistic that he will return back to his family.”