Humanitarian relief = U.S. military forces in Georgia

Russia issued a rebuke to President Bush on Thursday over the conflict in neighboring Georgia, refusing an immediate withdrawal of its troops there.

We know that U.S. and Israel has been instrumental in training the Georgia troops, as recently confirmed by the President and a government minister.

Now President Bush, flanked by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, announced a military buildup in Georgia, casting it as a “humanitarian relief” operation.

Even as he spoke of a humanitarian mission, Bush made clear the military dimensions of the measures he was announcing. He said he was directing Pentagon chief Gates to lead the mission, which would be “headed by the United States military.” He announced that a C-17 military aircraft was already on its way to Georgia and that “in the days ahead we will use US aircraft, as well as naval forces, to deliver humanitarian and medical supplies.”

This seems to be an injection of US military and naval forces into Georgia of indeterminate scope and duration, raising the possibility of a direct military clash between the United States and Russia?

The Stars and Stripes meanwhile confirms that U.S. personnel responsible for training members of the Georgian military remain stationed inside the volatile country. And in addition to the trainers, soldiers from the Southern European Task Force (Airborne) and 21st Theater Sustainment Command, along with Marine reservists with the 3rd Battalion, are also involved.

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