Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Georgia withdraws troops from Iraq to fight Russians

Georgia's contingent in Iraq was preparing to head home today to join the

fighting against Russia in the breakaway province of South Ossetia.

Georgia has asked the US military to provide transportation, but arrangements

haven't been finalised, said Colonel Bondo Maisuradze, commander of the Georgia

brigade. US officials could not confirm details, and said all options were being

considered.

``We are almost ready to redeploy,'' Colonel Maisuradze said in a telephone

interview today. ``Our government has requested the removal of all our forces,

but we are still waiting for the flight schedule.''

Georgia is the third-largest contributor to coalition forces after the US and

Britain. The troops moved last year from the relatively safe Green Zone in

Baghdad to an area south-east of the capital to help interdict supplies

allegedly being smuggled to Shiite extremists from Iran.

The US military has said the departure of the Georgian contingent will have

``some impact'' in the near term but no significant long-term effect on Iraq's

security.

At least five Georgians soldiers have died in Iraq since the US-led invasion in

2003.

Some Iraqis welcomed the Georgian withdrawal, saying they're tired of the

presence of US-led foreign troops.

``God willing, not only the Georgian forces will withdraw but all other troops

will leave our country and security and stability will come back to our land,''

Baghdad resident Ghada Adnan said.

Georgia, a former Soviet republic whose troops have been trained by American

soldiers, began an offensive to regain control over South Ossetia overnight on

Friday, launching heavy rocket and artillery fire and air strikes.

In response, Russia, which has granted passports to most South Ossetians, began

overwhelming bombing and shelling attacks against Georgia and Georgian troops.

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