Hundreds of U.S.-trained Georgian soldiers staged anti-terrorist drills south of Tbilisi on Thursday as part of training exercises ahead of their deployment to Iraq next year.
About 500 soldiers from the Caucasus Mountain nation's 22nd Light Infantry Battalion participated in exercises at the Vaziani military base, about 15 kilometers south of the capital, Capt. Shalva Dzhamakhidze confirmed.
The drills involved soldiers retaking an airfield that had been seized by terrorists.
The program is part of a US$50 million program that has U.S. military instructors training about 2,000 Georgian servicemen from four battalions for deployment in Iraq and other international peacekeeping operations.
Dzhamakhidze said the 22nd battalion will be deployed next year to Iraq, replacing some of the nearly 900 Georgian military personnel that are serving there under U.S. command.
"A primary effect of the training program is that the new and improved Georgian Army ... are more capable of securing the Georgian boarders, keeping the Caucasus region off the ever-shrinking list of potential safe havens for terrorists," the U.S. European Command said in a statement ahead of the exercises.
The U.S. ambassador to Georgia, John Tefft, said the training would help Tbilisi in its quest to win a membership action plan from NATO next year, the AP reports.