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Georgia prepares to deploy “Holbrooke Brigade”

Richard Holbrooke, the special representative for the issue formerly known as Af-Pak, will visit Georgia "shortly," with plans to finalize the deployment of Georgian troops to Afghanistan. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg revealed that Holbrooke will go to Georgia while traveling in Tbilisi Friday. Sources said the current thinking is that the visit will ...

Richard Holbrooke, the special representative for the issue formerly known as Af-Pak, will visit Georgia "shortly," with plans to finalize the deployment of Georgian troops to Afghanistan.

Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg revealed that Holbrooke will go to Georgia while traveling in Tbilisi Friday. Sources said the current thinking is that the visit will occur toward the end of February.

So what will Holbrooke be doing there? Well, in addition to possibly discussing Georgia President Mikheil Saakashvili's offer to allow his country to become a supply route to Afghanistan, which Steinberg reportedly said was a Pentagon matter, Georgian sources tell The Cable that Holbrooke will be putting the final touches on the plan to deploy Georgian troops to Afghanistan in March.

Richard Holbrooke, the special representative for the issue formerly known as Af-Pak, will visit Georgia "shortly," with plans to finalize the deployment of Georgian troops to Afghanistan.

Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg revealed that Holbrooke will go to Georgia while traveling in Tbilisi Friday. Sources said the current thinking is that the visit will occur toward the end of February.

So what will Holbrooke be doing there? Well, in addition to possibly discussing Georgia President Mikheil Saakashvili’s offer to allow his country to become a supply route to Afghanistan, which Steinberg reportedly said was a Pentagon matter, Georgian sources tell The Cable that Holbrooke will be putting the final touches on the plan to deploy Georgian troops to Afghanistan in March.

In Georgia, they are calling it the "Holbrooke Brigade," according to a source close to the Georgian government. The plan is for 750 Georgian troops to be deployed in Helmand province at the personal request of Gen. David Petraeus, the source said, who was impressed with their effectiveness along the Iranian border during operations in Iraq. According to the current plan, they will be under U.S. command and supplementing 350 Georgian troops already in country as part of the International Security Assistance Force.

It will be the largest per-capita contribution of any country in Afghanistan other than the U.S.  One lingering question that the Georgians plan to raise with Holbrooke is whether the U.S. will offer them any military aid for the mission. The U.S. has not provided any lethal military aid to Georgia since their war with Russian in 2008, but the Georgians may need some items, such as parts for the U.S.-made M4 rifles they will be using in the Afghanistan mission.

In a December report, Senate Foreign Relations ranking Republican Richard Lugar, R-IN, argued for an end to the unofficial ban of U.S. lethal military aid to Georgia, arguing that the increase of Russian arms near there was dangerously tipping the balance.

"The United States, under substantial Russian diplomatic pressure, has paused the transfer of lethal military articles to Georgia, and no U.S. assistance since the war has been directly provided to the Georgian Ministry of Defense," the report stated. "Consequently, Georgia lacks basic capacity for territorial defense."

 

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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