In the evening of June 6 a Georgian military base ‘Shukvani’ in Helmand province was attacked by Taliban. In the explosion of a truck packed with explosives, seven soldiers were killed, nine were injured. Georgia's Defence Minister Irakli Alasania had to cut short his visit to Brussels and go to Afghanistan, where he met with the Minister of Defence of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and visited the wounded soldiers in the hospital. The Secretary General of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen sent condolences to the leadership of Georgia. By decision of the president, June 7 was declared a day of mourning.
This attack on Georgian peacekeepers in the province of Helmand was the second in the past three weeks. On May 13 in the same places in militant attacks with the use of booby-trapped vehicle three Georgian soldiers were killed. Then Tbilisi managed to reassure the public, saying that the Taliban attacked the Georgian contingent by error, “confusing the flags of Georgia and the United Kingdom.” However, the attack on June 6 dispelled all doubts in the Taliban’s ability to distinguish flags. In addition, the day before the act of terrorism, on behalf of the Islamic
Movement of the Taliban an official video was published in the network with the announcement of jihad against Georgia and personally the president Mikhail Saakashvili, who “sent the Georgian Crusaders to the lands of Allah.”
A known American journalist Alice Johansen-Rubin, editor of the Kabul office of The New York Times poured oil on the flames. In her article on the death of seven Georgian soldiers, she said that the local population has an extremely negative attitude towards the Georgian contingent, behaving in a boorish manner and often being engaged in theft. “According to some local Afghan elders, the locals do not like Georgian military because they stop people to search without authorization, do not treat them with respect and do not understand their language.” The journalist also published an opinion of one of the elders living in Helmand: “The Georgians treat us as if they were our hosts. The people complain that after their searches money, wrist watches and other valuables are missed.”
Deputy Chief of Joint Staff of the Georgian Armed Forces, Vakhtang Kapanadze could not hold back emotions after reading the publication in The New York Times and advised the author to “swallow his article along with the entire newspaper”. “This article is an outpouring of evil, a scope of helpless stupid things. The Afghan who was asked about it – wasn’t there someone more competent in the Taliban to say otherwise?” said Kapanadze, in fact alluding to the need to carry out censorship in the media and publish only “right opinions”.
The discontent of the Georgian General is understandable - the American journalist’s publication debunks the myth of the noble mission of Georgian troops in Afghanistan, thoroughly imposed by government propaganda, and demonstrates the vassalage of the Georgian leadership, who agreed to send its soldiers to die in the occupied country for foreign interests. In addition, the chief of the Joint Staff can not voice the opinion of a majority of Georgians that the Taliban aggression was substantially provoked by the bravado of the Georgian president, who in late May during a visit to Helmand province before the cameras closely questioned the military about how they killed the Taliban. So Kapanadze has to take it out on the American journalist who is unlikely to answer him.
In turn, Saakashvili himself immediately after the act of terrorism, made haste to declare that, despite ‘another victim’ Georgia will not retreat and will continue to fight against terrorism in Afghanistan. Except that the president’s confidence is not supported any longer by the Georgian society.
In Tbilisi, on June 10 at the door of the hotel where the closing ceremony of NATO Week in Georgia took place, a protest action was held whose participants demanded to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. The protesters brought with them placards with pictures of bloodied Afghan children and inscriptions “this is NATO’s face”.
The protesters urged public discussions of reasonability of Georgia’s accession to the North Atlantic Alliance and the price to be paid for it. According to a participant of the action, Revaz Maisuradze, the operation in Afghanistan is “a struggle for drug trafficking, which is carried out under the auspices of NATO.” “We also want to ask why they kill innocent children, demolish churches and why all of this takes place under the auspices of the NATO. And why is Georgia involved in this?”
A member of the Club of Young Political Scientists, Georgi Mdivani described the activities of NATO as a “de facto occupation of Afghanistan”, stressing that the protesters do not wish Georgia to participate in the process. Mdivani said that next week his organization is planning to hold in Tbilisi a round table on cooperation with NATO, and invites all interested persons to participate in the meeting.
In turn, the Labour Party of Georgia on Monday made an application to the Central Election Commission with a demand to conduct a referendum on the withdrawal of Georgian troops from Afghanistan. According to one of the leaders of the party, Georgi Gugava, the CEC at the next elections must ask people’s opinion on the Georgian contingent’s participation in the mission in Afghanistan.
The former speaker of the Georgian parliament, Nino Burjanadze did not stay aside either. She demanded to make public the full text of a treaty, according to which the Georgian troops stay in Afghanistan and will remain after the departure of most of the coalition forces. “What for are our guys killed? Why does Georgia has in Afghanistan one of the most numerous groups?”
The Georgian authorities got used to answer these questions by long statements about the importance of freedom and independence on the way toward accession to the ‘civilized world’. “Georgia has made another sacrifice on a very difficult and thorny path to our freedom, independence and joining the family of the world’s civilized nations. Our duty to the memory of each of them is not to give up, not to drop behind and continue the Georgia’s advance to the Euro-Atlantic space” – with such slogans Saakashvili commented on the act of terrorism on June 6 in Helmand Province.
Regular reports of the death of Georgian soldiers in Afghanistan, who according to the will of their superiors perform military duty in a foreign country for them, become a heavy blow to the entire Georgian nation and each time raise a question of appropriateness of these victims. The protest actions in Tbilisi are testimony to the fact that the Georgian society is beginning to realize that the struggle under the auspices of the NATO for ‘freedom and independence’ through air strikes and military intervention in the internal affairs of other states, is just a farce designed to hide the aggressive intentions of the ‘civilized countries’ to implement their geopolitical interests. On the understanding that also willingness comes to fight for the future of the own country, which, despite the work of political technologists and propagandists, remains in the hands of ordinary citizens who support one or another political course.