Charles Clover and Demetri Sevastopulo
Saturday, Sept 6, 2008
The US military provided combat training to 80 Georgian special forces commandos only months prior to Georgia’s army assault in South Ossetia in August.
The revelation, based on recruitment documents and interviews with US military trainers obtained by the Financial Times, could add fuel to accusations by Vladimir Putin, Russian prime minister, last month that the US had “orchestrated” the war in the Georgian enclave.
The training was provided by senior US soldiers and two military contractors. There is no evidence that the contractors or the Pentagon, which hired them, knew that the commandos they were training were likely be used in the assault on South Ossetia.
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A US army spokesman said the goal of the programme was to train the commandos for duty in Afghanistan as part of Nato-led International Security Assistance Force. The programme, however, highlights the often unintended consequences of US “train and equip” programmes in foreign countries.
The contractors – MPRI and American Systems, both based in Virginia – recruited a 15-man team of former special forces soldiers to train the Georgians at the Vashlijvari special forces base on the outskirts of Tbilisi, part of a programme run by the US defence department.
This article was posted: Saturday, September 6, 2008 at 3:54 am