A meeting of Russian and American presidents is to take place very soon, that is why the USA hurries up to strengthen military presence on the post-Soviet territory (Central Asia and the Caucasus region). Military training in the network of the US program for military aid to Georgia is to start in Georgia at the end of May and to last for 70 days, official spokesman for the group of US instructors Colonel Scott Tine said at the press-conference in Tbilisi.
The first group of US commandos of 20 people in number came to Georgia Monday late. About 200 American soldiers are expected to come to Georgia on the whole.
US instructors will train Georgian soldiers to struggle with radical Muslim groups that are allegedly connected with Al-Qaeda. It is believed, Al-Qaeda members are taking shelter in the Pankissi Gorge. Colonel Tine says, the program provides for study of the Georgian language and culture by US soldiers.
The American authorities report, the commandos will stay in Georgia for about six months. However, many people in Georgia suppose that US soldiers may stay even for a longer period. There is a suggestion that they will protect the oil pipeline that is to connect the Caspian fields with the Turkish port of Ceyhan. Construction of the pipeline that is to be laid on Georgia’s territory, will cost several billions of dollars. Other sources suppose, Washington plans to found a standing military base in the Southern Caucasus close to Iraq and Iran.
The USA also pays enough attention to Central Asia. General Paul Mikolashek, commander of the US land forces is to arrive in Tashkent in the second half of the day on Thursday. A short visit provides for his meeting with Uzbekistan Defense Minister Kadyr Gulyamov and visit to the US Embassy in Uzbekistan. General Mikolashek will spend less than a day in Uzbekistan and will leave for Kuwait Friday early.
Washington’s activity in the region is not connected with the events in Afghanistan, although it is officially stated that inspection of the US bases in former Soviet republics is held within the network of the US-British operation for Al-Qaeda and Taliban liquidation.
But the situation is much more complicated than it may seem at the first sight. The USA needs military bases in Central Asia and in the Caucasus for a short-term period, as a subsidiary base for an offensive against Iraq. As for a long-term objective, the USA plans to use the bases as a political, economic and probably military pressure on the Central Asiatic countries with a view to get control over oil and gas that are abundant in these regions. The Izvestia newspaper informs, it became evident after Saudi Prince Abdullah’s recent visit to the USA. According to some sources, the Iraq problem was not directly discussed at the meeting, but the Prince declared, his country was against US intervention in Iraq, and Saudi territories would not be provided for landing and refueling of US planes. Moreover, Saudi Arabia will prohibit to use its airspace.
The USA has to look for states that are ready to provide territories for an offensive against Iraq. Turkey, Kuwait and Qatar are really convenient states situated near the Iraqi borders. Over the past year the number of US servicemen increased from 5,500 to 10,5000. However, Washington is not sure so far, whether Kuwait and Qatar would support it.
The Pentagon considers Central Asiatic republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan capable of providing second-echelon bases, a prominent military expert told the Izvestia newspaper.
Dmitry Chirkin PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Maria Gousseva
Read the original in Russian: http://www.pravda.ru/main/2002/05/02/40605.html