By American Forces Press ServiceAugust 25, 2008
TBILISI, Georgia, Aug. 24, 2008 - The commander of U.S. European Command traveled to the former Soviet republic of Georgia to ensure the ongoing U.S. humanitarian effort in the wake of a Georgian conflict with Russia is proceeding smoothly.
"I'm here to talk to Georgian leaders and our U.S. assessment team to hear what they need," Army Gen. Bantz J. Craddock, EUCOM commander, 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 in Stuttgart, Germany, were joined on the visit by U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Henrietta Holsman Fore. As part of the visit, Craddock visited a building in Tbilisi where about 250 displaced people were living, unable to return home since the Russian advance. The general also met with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and defense ministry officials about the way ahead for U.S.-Georgian military-to-military relationship.
Craddock said EuCom would assess the Georgian forces' needs 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," Saakashvili said in a brief joint news conference after 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. [The Russians] need to do what they said they were going to do almost a week ago and
Craddock expressed support for an 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 Cradock's visit was a stop to observe the growing U.S. aerial port mission at Tbilisi Airport and tothank 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.
Navy Rear Adm. Steven Romano, EuCom's director of logistics and security assistance, said U.S. Air Force aircraft have established a tempo of C-17 and C-130 deliveries that are providing enough food to feed about 50,000 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, Crete, on Aug. 21 after taking aboard dozens of pallets of humanitarian relief supplies, and the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Dallas is following with more humanitarian aid.
(From a U.S. European Command news release.)