Unit from Georgian Defense Force Leaves for NATO Afghanistan Mission
In late July, a company-sized Georgian peacekeeping unit departed for Afghanistan as a part of the NATO Resolute Support Mission (RSM) in Afghanistan. The unit from the Georgian Defense Force (GDF) Eastern Command led by Major Zurab Tskhadadze left from the Alekseyevka Mixed Aviation Base. The troops headed for the coalition Camp Marmal, in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, in northern Afghanistan and will replace the GDF 2nd Infantry Brigade for the next seven months. In Afghanistan, the Georgian unit will officially serve under German command to aid in the peacekeeping mission.
NATO’s RSM in Afghanistan began in 2015 and aims to provide training and assistance, as well as advise the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). The assistance also includes support in planning and budgeting, adherence to rule of law and good governance, sustainable recruitment and development of personnel, and assuring accountability and transparency. Currently, over 16,000 personnel from 39 different NATO members and partnership countries are supporting the RSM. Georgia is also the fifth largest (and the largest non-NATO) contributor to the RSM, with 870 personnel deployed to Afghanistan. Georgia continues to serve as a transit country for NATO operations in Afghanistan and has been a member of the RSM since its beginning in 2015. NATO also pledged financial support to the ANDSF until the end of 2020, and at the 2018 Brussels Summit, members and partner countries agreed to extend the financial commitment to Afghan security through 2024.
Since Georgia’s independence, it has sought ties with the West and NATO. Bilateral cooperation with NATO began in 1994 when Georgia joined the Partnership for Peace (PfP). Georgia began assisting the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan in 2004 and joined the RSM in 2015 after ISAF expired. Georgia demonstrated its commitment to NATO and desire to join when it had the third largest presence in Iraq in 2007 behind the United States and United Kingdom. In 2010, a NATO Liaison Office was established in Tbilisi to support reform efforts, communication with the Georgian government, and organize cooperation with NATO. In 2015, the Georgian-NATO Joint Training and Evaluation Centre (JTEC) opened in Tbilisi to aid Georgia in modernizing and strengthening its security and defense. The JTEC offers joint training and drilling with Georgia and NATO members and partners. More recently, in March 2019, the JTEC conducted a joint military exercise with 21 NATO allies and three partner countries. Georgian-NATO cooperation on the Black Sea has increased, with NATO having conducted training for the Georgian Coast Guard. Active Georgian participation and involvement in NATO missions demonstrate Georgia’s commitment to NATO’s collective security.
The primary driver for Georgia’s close support of NATO is Georgia’s long-standing dream of joining the security organization. Tbilisi sees the deepening of relations between Georgia and NATO, including in NATO-led missions in the Middle East and the establishment of NATO bases and joint exercises in Georgia, as ways to build Georgian military experience. It also has the added benefit of strengthening its ties with NATO. However, for various reasons, including that Georgia’s territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are occupied by Russia, it is unlikely NATO will extend anytime soon a Membership Action Plan to the Caucasian state.