Citing senior U.S. defense officials, The New York Times reported Thursday that the combat training mission in the Republic of Georgia is being carried out despite its potential for upsetting relations between Washington and Moscow. The objective of the training mission is to bring Georgian troops up to NATO combat standards for their role in the U.S. and allied operation in Afghanistan, the officials told the Times.
The officials said Russia has been notified of the training program, and Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said the training the Georgians are receiving does not deal with types of combat Georgian troops might employ against a conventional force such as Russia's.
"This training mission is not about internal defenses or any capabilities that the Georgians would use at home," Morrell said. "This is about the United States supporting Georgia's contribution to the war in Afghanistan, which everybody can recognize is needed and valued and appreciated."
Officials said the training mission should not be seen in Georgia as an opportunity for U.S. military presence to counter Russian influence in the region.