A 12-member U.S. military team has arrived in Georgia to assess
humanitarian needs following the Russian attack. The team is part of a
relief effort ordered Wednesday by President Bush. VOA's Al Pessin
reports from the Pentagon.
Pentagon Spokesman Bryan Whitman
confirms that the team arrived in Tbilisi late Wednesday to work with
local officials and the U.S. embassy to assess humanitarian needs. The
first U.S. military relief flight also arrived Wednesday carrying
blankets, medicine and other supplies. A second flight is scheduled
for Thursday, and beyond that Whitman says the U.S. assessment team
will determine what further U.S. military aid is needed.
secretary will use all the capabilities of the department as he sees
necessary to carry out the mission that the president has given us."
could not say whether the team would travel to the war zone in and
around South Ossetia. Pentagon officials disputed a reported statement
by Georgia's president that U.S. forces would take over operations of
the country's airports and sea ports.
The relief efforts by the
U.S. military command for Europe, based in Germany, were already
underway when President Bush announced he had ordered Defense Secretary
Robert Gates to lead a U.S. relief effort for Georgia.
mission will be vigorous and ongoing. A U.S. C-17 aircraft with
humanitarian supplies is on its way. And in the days ahead we will use
U.S. aircraft as well as naval forces to deliver humanitarian and
medical supplies," he said.
A C-17 can carry up to 77,000
kilograms of cargo. The president said naval forces could also be used
in the relief effort, but he did not provide details.
Bush served notice on Russian authorities not to interfere with the
U.S. relief effort. "We expect Russia to honor its commitment to let in
all forms of humanitarian assistance. We expect Russia to ensure that
all lines of communication and transport, including seaports, airports,
roads and airspace remain open for the delivery of humanitarian
assistance, and for civilian transit," he said.
United States has cancelled plans for a naval exercise with Russian
forces that had been scheduled to begin within the next several days
near the Russian port of Vladivostok. The Pentagon spokesman, Bryan
Whitman, confirmed the cancellation of the exercise, which was to have
also included British and French forces. "The exercise was cancelled
because it simply was inappropriate, given the current situation."
noted that the United States has a strong military relationship with
Georgia, and calls the country "a good ally." Georgia had two thousand
troops in Iraq until this crisis required them to be called home, and
the United States provided transport for them. Whitman says the
U.S.-Georgian military ties will continue and the United States will
look at Georgia's future needs in the wake of this conflict. There has
been a U.S. military training team in Georgia for some time, which
Whitman says numbers fewer than 100 troops.