26 November 2002
Myers Thanks Georgia for Help in Anti-terror War
(24 November briefing in Tbilisi) (990)
The relationship between the United States and Georgia is a "very,
very important one" and the United States appreciates Georgia's help
on the war on terrorism, said General Richard Myers, chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a press briefing in Tbilisi on November 24
following his meeting with President Eduard Shevardnadze.
Myers praised the Georgia "Train and Equip" program, started by the
U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) in April 2002 to combat terrorism and
address the situation in the Pankisi Gorge, as progressing "very, very
well." The program includes organizational and accounting training for
defense ministry command staff, border guards, and other security
Myers turned aside a question concerning Georgia's role in a possible
war with Iraq by saying that there has been no decision about any
conflict in Iraq. "The important thing now is to let the UN process
work and to see if the Iraqi regime will comply with what the United
Nations has asked it to do," Myers said.
Myers was also asked about the timetable for Georgia's accession into
NATO and the role of the United States in helping Georgia comply with
the NATO standards and deadlines. Myers said the NATO process is
"event-driven" and, by participating in defense reform programs such
as Partnership for Peace and "Train and Equip," Georgia is off to a
"good start toward some of the modernization that needs to go on to
become compatible with NATO standards in the military."
Following is the transcript as provided by the American Embassy in
Georgian State Chancellery
November 24, 2002
CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS GENERAL MYERS
General Myers: Hello and good evening. It's a real privilege to be
here in Georgia - it's a place that I've been trying to get to for
some time and I'm glad to be here finally. I'm being hosted superbly
by my counterpart and the Minister of Defense. We've had a wonderful
day of discussions today, despite the fact that it's Sunday,
everybody's working very hard. Of course, we just finished a meeting
with President Shevardnadze. It was about an hour-long discussion,
wide-ranging discussion on many, many issues. Tomorrow I'll have a
chance to go out and visit the Train and Equip Program where there are
U.S. soldiers working with Georgian soldiers. That will complete the
visit. Obviously, the U.S. and Georgian relationship is a very, very
important one. It's been strengthening over the years. We very much
appreciate Georgia's help on this war on terrorism. We're glad to be
partners in this fight for things that I think we all agree are
important. That is stability and good lives for our families and our
children. Again, it's a privilege to be here, to be hosted so warmly
by my friends, and with that, we'll take a couple of questions.
Question (Reuters): Have you discussed in any way Georgia's possible
involvement or participation in war, if it happens, against Iraq? If
so, then what is it? Is it use of Georgia's air space or Georgia's
military air base or Georgia's participation, to a certain extent, in
strikes against Iraq?
General Myers: First of all, it's important to make clear that there's
been no decision, certainly on the United States' part, about any
conflict in Iraq. I think the important thing now is to let the UN
process work and to see if the Iraqi regime will comply with what the
United Nations has asked it to do. That is to disarm and to disarm its
weapons of mass destruction. In terms of any potential cooperation
between the United States and Georgia, that's a matter you're going to
have to ask of Georgian authorities. I'm not going to talk about that.
We did not talk about that in any detail.
Question (Russian TV NTV): Could you please evaluate the Georgia Train
and Equip Program - its progress and also what can the Georgian army
expect after the program is over?
General Myers: That's a very complicated question. Basically, the
Georgia Train and Equip Program is going very, very well. I've not
seen it with my own eyes - I'll go out there tomorrow -- but the
reports from other senior officers who have been here before and from
the embassy is that the program is going exceptionally well. This
program will go on for some time - it ends sometime in the middle of
2004. It's a very deliberate process of training specific units.
Obviously, one of the side benefits of the Train and Equip Program is
the building of personal relationships and understanding of different
cultures, which, while maybe not a direct objective of the program, is
certainly a very important one. How these forces are used here in
Georgia will, of course, be up to the Georgian government.
Question (Georgian TV Rustavi 2): Georgia's accession to NATO is a
topical issue these days, especially after the NATO summit in Prague.
What do you think - how will it take for Georgia to finally become a
member of NATO and what would be the United States' role in helping
Georgia to comply with the NATO standards and deadlines?
General Myers: In terms of how long -- this is getting a little out of
my lane because I'm in the military and a lot of this process is
political, although there is a military component. It's very difficult
to put a timeline on something like this because it'll be
event-driven, not time-line- or date-driven. I think the United States
will participate as other NATO nations have in programs such as
Partnership for Peace and other programs that will help with defense
reform, which is a major component of meeting NATO standards.
Certainly, the Train and Equip Program is a good start toward some of
the modernization that needs to go on to become compatible with NATO
standards in the military. We did discuss today at some length some of
the defense reform efforts that must take place and that will be
important for Georgia.
Thank you very much.
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)