WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The United States will resume a combat training mission in the republic of Georgia to prepare Georgian troops for counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan, a U.S. Defense Department official has said.
"Georgia wants to be part of the international effort in Afghanistan. We want to help them get ready," Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said on August 13.
The United States consulted with Russia about the training program to avoid any misunderstandings, Morrell said.
"It [the training] is not designed to get them ready for any internal defense. We have been very forthright with our Russian counterparts about what we are doing," Morrell said.
He said the United States had agreed to send a few dozen Marine trainers to Georgia to help a battalion of Georgian troops train for deployment to Afghanistan sometime next year.
"The New York Times," which first reported the training mission, said the first members of a Marine Corps training and advising team would arrive in Georgia on August 16 or 17, and the number of trainers would fluctuate between 10 and 69 over the next six months.
The new training mission, to begin September 1, comes a year after Georgia's brief war with Russia froze a similar American training operation that prepared Georgian troops for deployments to Iraq, the newspaper reported.
Russia defeated Georgia's military bid to retake a pro-Moscow region from rebels in a five-day war that rekindled tension between the Kremlin and the West.
Russia last week again accused Washington of rearming the Georgian "war machine."
A senior Pentagon official acknowledged that "this is delicate for us -- because while we want to be supportive of the Georgians, and look forward to their contribution in Afghanistan, we don't want to be perceived incorrectly as supplying lethal capabilities that would elicit a Russian response."