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U.S. troops still in Georgia

By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 12, 2008

U.S. personnel responsible for training members of the Georgian military remain stationed inside the volatile country, where fighting erupted Friday between Russia and Georgia over the breakaway province of South Ossetia.

The U.S. European Command said on Monday that there were no plans at this time to withdraw the U.S. military trainers from the country. There are still 127 U.S. trainers in Georgia, where the American forces had been preparing the Georgian army for operations in Iraq.

Meanwhile, U.S. civilians started to make their way out of the country over the weekend, according to the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi.

Convoys carrying family members of diplomats, government workers and ordinary citizens bound for the embassy in neighboring Armenia continued on Monday.

Tom Mittnacht, a spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Armenia, said the office was not releasing the number of evacuees it has received so far. But the numbers do not seem to be exceptionally large.

"We’re working on a few convoys," Mittnacht said.

Upon arrival in Armenia, families are taking up residence in hotels while they wait things out.

"We’re here to provide them with any assistance we can," Mittnacht said.

Regarding the military personnel, EUCOM stated that they are not engaged in the conflict and are removed from where the fighting is happening.

In addition to the trainers, 1,000 soldiers from the Vicenza, Italy-based Southern European Task Force (Airborne) and the Kaiserslautern-based 21st Theater Sustainment Command, along with Marine reservists with the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines out of Ohio, and the state of Georgia’s Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 121st Infantry recently participated in "Immediate Response 2008."

That exercise, which had the U.S. troops operating from Vaziani, concluded on Thursday. That base, near the capital of Tbilisi, was bombed by Russian aircraft over the weekend, Georgian officials said.

As for the roughly 2,000 Georgians currently deployed to Iraq, they are now being redeployed to their home country for support. The first of those soldiers departed Iraq over the weekend, according to the military.

The Georgians had made up the third-largest contingent of foreign troops in Iraq.


Spc. Joseph Noble of the Georgia Army National Guard takes part in field training alongside Republic of Georgia soldiers during Immediate Response 08 at Vaziani Military Base, Georgia, in July. The training wrapped up Thursday.
Tracy J. Smith/Courtesy of the U.S. Army


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