Georgian Defense Minister Irakli Alasania spoke by phone with U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, the Georgian Ministry of Defense said on Thursday.
It said that the U.S. Defense Secretary expressed condolences over death of a Georgian soldier in Afghanistan later last month and reiterated the U.S. appreciation for Georgia’s contribution to NATO-led operations in Afghanistan.
The Georgian MoD also said that Alasania and Panetta discussed “the US-Georgian bilateral cooperation in the international operations.”
According to MoD, Alasania reiterated that “Georgia is a reliable partner of the United States” and noted that Georgian troops would remain in Afghanistan until the end of 2014, when ISAF’s mission is expected to end. Alasania also reiterated that Georgia would continue its contribution to post-2014 mission as well. Georgia has been included by NATO in the planning of its post-2014 mission in Afghanistan.
Georgia has almost doubled its contribution to NATO-led operations in Afghanistan in October to over 1,560 soldiers, becoming the largest non-NATO contributor to the ISAF operation.
Georgia has lost total of nineteen soldiers in Afghanistan since joining ISAF mission in November, 2009, eight of them in 2012. The most recent casualty was in December after dead body of a missing Sergeant Giorgi Kikadze was found in the Musa Qala district of Helmand province on December 29.
U.S. ambassador to Georgia Richard Norland said in a statement expressing condolences over the Georgian soldiers’ death, that the Georgian troops “are making vital contributions to realizing our shared objectives under NATO's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.”
“We recognize that Georgia is one of the leading contributors to critical international security efforts. The United States deeply appreciates and respects Georgia's contributions, and the sacrifices that come with them,” Ambassador Norland said.