(AFP) – Aug 8, 2008
WASHINGTON (AFP) — The Pentagon took a hands off approach to outbreak of hostilities between Russia and Georgia Friday, keeping tabs on US military trainers there and dusting off contingency plans should Americans need to be evacuated, Pentagon officials said.
However, there were no plans to redeploy the estimated 130 US troops and civilian contractors who are stationed in the area around Tblisi, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said. He said all have been accounted for.
"They are not involved in any way in this conflict between the Russian military and the Georgian military," said Lieutenant Colonel John Dorrian, a spokesman for the US European Command.
The US military has had a longstanding program to train Georgian troops for deployments in Iraq, where there are currently about 2,000 troops, making Georgia the third largest troop contributor to the US-led coalition.
The Georgian government said Friday it wants to bring home 1,000 troops from Iraq, and a US military official said the Pentagon has been asked for help in flying them home.
But otherwise, Pentagon officials said they knew of no other requests for military assistance.
The outbreak of fighting was being watched with concern at the Pentagon.
Whitman said the US Defense Department has been in contact with Georgian officials over the situation in South Ossetia, the breakaway region at the center of the conflict.
"We have forces in Georgia, so obviously the secretary is interested in the situation there," he said, referring to US Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
"We are watching it closely," a military official said. "We are looking at the situation, and how it develops. It's still early."
The US European Command's plans and operations center has also been monitoring the situation in South Ossetia, said Dorrian.
"What they do in a situation like this is contact the embassy, contact our troops there, assess the situation, and begin to receive any information or request for support from the embassy, or any reports about US citizens being in danger."
"At this point we are early in the hostilities. The situation is sort of dynamic at this point," he said.
Asked about planning for a possible non combatant evacuation, Dorrian said, "We do have robust plans in place to support needs like that if they are required."
Pentagon officials said such plans would be reviewed as a precaution in light of the situation although no request has been made by the State Department to evacuate civilians.
"Normally plans like this are dusted off and given a fresh look," said a defense official, who asked not to be identified.
"There is always contingency planning that takes place over a continuous period. When a moment of crisis seems to appear, they are looked at with fresh eyes at that time," the official said.
The United States, European Union and NATO have led international calls for an immediate end to violence in South Ossetia amid fears of all-out war between Russia and Georgia.
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