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US Troops Arrive to Train Georgian Military in Counter-Terrorism - 2002-04-30

A team of about 20 U.S. military officials has arrived in Georgia to begin training that country's armed forces in counter-terrorist tactics. The troops are the advance party of between 150 and 200 Americans scheduled to go to Georgia to train and equip the Georgian military for counter-terrorism operations. They will lay the groundwork for training the command staff of Georgia's Defense Ministry and key field units, such as the Border Guards. Each 100-day training session will stress infantry tactics, including air-mobile support operations.

In addition to the tactical training, Georgia is to receive weapons, ammunition, communications equipment and fuel as part of the $64 million program.

Several months ago, the Georgian Government asked the United States for help in battling insurgents in the Pankisi Gorge, a remote and lawless area that borders Chechnya. The mountains and valleys of the Pankisi are home to hundreds of refugees from the fighting in Chechnya and Chechen separatists are reportedly mixed in with the refugees. U.S. officials believe Islamic militants with links to the al-Qaida terrorist network are also hiding in the gorge.

Georgian state television reported Monday three Arabs were seized in a police raid in the Pankisi Gorge. The state television report also said, hours later, guards at a hydroelectric station were fired on and a man related to one of the seized Arabs was wounded in the return fire.

News of an impending American military presence in the former Soviet republic angered some people in Russia's military elite, who view the presence as an American encroachment in Russia's "backyard." But, those concerns were brushed aside by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has been a staunch supporter of the U.S. anti-terrorism campaign.