US to Help Georgia Rebuild Military, Says Top US General

TBILISI (AFP)–The United States will "work hard" to help Georgia retrain its armed forces and obtain new military hardware after the ex-Soviet republic’s war with Russia last year, a top US general said Monday.

"The United States remains committed … to providing training and other assistance to the Georgian military in support of their reform efforts," the vice chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, General James Cartwright, said at a joint press conference in Tbilisi with President Mikheil Saakashvili.

"We will start on the training, that is the core and the foundation of the activity," he said. "We will work hard to get both the skill levels that are necessary … and work as partners on the equipment necessary."

Saakashvili said Georgia was committed to rebuilding its military amid continued tensions with Russia.

"In conditions where 20 percent of the country is occupied, when risk is high and provocations continue, when the situation in the region is difficult, Georgia will continue creating a modern, high-level, much stronger armed forces, increasing personnel and armamen’s, and most importantly increasing the level of preparation and defense," he said.

US military planners are working with Georgia to revamp its military and redesign its military strategy following its defeat during last year’s brief war with Russia over the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

Russia has repeatedly criticized significant US military assistance to Georgia, straining relations between Washington and Moscow.

Russia’sent troops and tanks deep into Georgia last August in response to a Georgian military attempt to retake South Ossetia, which broke away from Tbilisi’s control in the early 1990s and had received extensive backing from Moscow for years.

Russian forces occupied swathes of territory and bombed targets across Georgia before mostly withdrawing to within South Ossetia and another rebel region, Abkhazia, which Moscow recognized as independent states.

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