EUCOM Commander assesses Georgian needs

U.S. European Command commander Army Gen. John Craddock emphasized U.S. commitment to a massive humanitarian assistance effort to support the Georgian people in the wake of their conflict with Russia.

"I'm here to talk to Georgian leaders and our U.S. assessment team to hear what they need," Craddock said. "We have to get it right so we can help people quickly. We want to optimize the humanitarian aid effort and bring in the right stuff, to the right place at the right time."

The General and several key staff members from EUCOM headquarters were joined on the visit by U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Henrietta Holsman Fore. The U.S. military has a long history assisting U.S. government humanitarian relief efforts, providing capabilities for airlift, logistics, communication and as necessary, security.

As part of the visit, the General visited a building in Tbilisi where about 250 internally displaced persons were living, unable to return home since the Russian advance.

Craddock also met with Georgian Ministry of Defense officials and Georgia President Mikheil Saakashvili about the way ahead for U.S.-Georgian military to military relationship. Craddock said EUCOM would do an assessment of what the Georgian forces needed and make a recommendation to the Secretary of Defense.

"We express our gratitude for your help, and will never forget what you have done to help us in our time of need," President Saakashvili said in a brief joint press event following the meeting.

Craddock minced no words when discussing Russia's compliance with a France-brokered cease fire agreement.

"There is an agreement between two heads of state, and there has to be compliance," he said Aug. 21. "My assessment is that the Russian withdrawal is now slower than it ought to be. They (the Russians) need to do what they said they were going to do almost a week ago and withdraw." The General expressed support for a Organization for Security Cooperation in Europe observer mission slated to provide 100 unarmed military observers. The mission will provide better awareness of withdrawal progress and reduce the possibility of new clashes between Russians and Georgians.

Also part of the visit was a stop to observe the growing U.S. aerial port mission at Tbilisi Airport, and thank the U.S. troops working there. To date the U.S. has provided more than $11 million in direct support of the humanitarian aid mission in Georgia.

According to U.S. European Command Director of Logistics and Security Assistance Rear Adm. Steven Romano, U.S. Air Force aircraft have established a tempo of C-17 and C-130 deliveries that are providing enough food to feed about 50 thousand people per day until USAID and Georgian government efforts can sustain the effort.

Maritime assets are also playing a growing role in the aid effort. USS McFaul, a Navy destroyer, left Souda Bay Thursday after taking aboard dozens of pallets of humanitarian relief supplies, and the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Dallas follows McFaul into the Black Sea today with more humanitarian aid.

[Source: Headquarters United States European Command, Tbilisi, Geo, 22Aug08]

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