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BAUMHOLDER, Germany — The church with the white picket fence and bell tower, built by Georgian troops several months ago at their remote outpost southeast of Baghdad, was intended to bring a feeling of home to their austere surroundings in the desert.

Members of the 13th Georgian Light Infantry Battalion built their part of Combat Outpost Cleary near the rural city of Wahida from the ground up.

While the soldiers seemed to take solace in their efforts to bring a bit of Georgia to Iraq, the unit is now back on the ground in their home country.

Now, the U.S. units that worked alongside them are looking to fill the void.

In the case of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, whose soldiers worked with the Georgians at Combat Outpost Cleary, the impact is expected to be for the short term.

"Any unplanned redeployment will have some near term impact on our operations. As with any major change, whether it’s an addition or subtraction of force structure, we’ll make adjustments to ensure sustained operations," said Maj. Wayne Marotto, a spokesman for the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division.

The loss of a battalion-sized element is not expected to have any significant impact on security in the area, where gains during the past year have been significant, Marotto said.

The Georgians occupied a range of territory in Iraq, from remote places such as Wahida to volatile zones in Diyala province northeast of Baghdad.

During a news conference in Baghdad on Sunday, Maj. Gen. Mark Hertling, commander of Multi-National Division-North, told reporters that the departure of the Georgians was not likely to have a significant impact.

But with 2,000 soldiers, Georgia was the third-largest troop contributor to the multinational coalition.

The country has suffered five deaths in Iraq since the war began, according to the Web site icasualties.org.

U.S. Air Force planes began flying the Georgians out of Iraq on Sunday.

The flights continued on Monday, drawing harsh words from Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Since Friday, Russian and Georgian forces have been engaged in a violent clash over the breakaway province of South Ossetia.

With no end in sight to the tensions, it’s unclear whether they’ll be returning anytime soon.

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John covers U.S. military activities across Europe and Africa. Based in Stuttgart, Germany, he previously worked for newspapers in New Jersey, North Carolina and Maryland. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.
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