Georgia shuts 2 bases in Afghanistan after attacks
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Georgia said Wednesday that the country has closed two of its bases in Afghanistan after 10 of its soldiers were killed by militant attacks within the last four weeks, but it will not reduce the number of troops serving there.
The announcement by Defense Minister Irakli Alasania came five days after he visited Afghanistan to meet with his country's contingent in the U.S-led coalition in the aftermath of the attacks. A massive truck bomb killed seven Georgians at their base in Helmand province's Now-e-Zad district on June 6, while three other Georgian soldiers died May 13 in a bomb attack on another base in Helmand's Musa Qala district.
The bombings were part of a wave of militant attacks in recent weeks, pushing violence to some of the highest levels of the 12-year war as Afghan forces take over most security responsibility from international troops set to withdraw next year.
Alasania said on television station Rustavi-2 that Georgia will maintain its current level of troops in Afghanistan but did not say where they would work from. Georgia, a former Soviet republic with aspirations of joining NATO, has 1,545 troops serving in Afghanistan.
"It's a contribution made by Georgia to the international mission that is fighting terrorism and ensuring global security," he said.
He did not say where the closed bases specifically were, and it wasn't immediately clear how many bases Georgia maintains in Afghanistan.
Violence continues to escalate this month in Afghanistan, with the Taliban and other insurgents targeting NATO troops, government forces, politicians and civilians. On Tuesday, 17 people died in Kabul when a Taliban car bomber hit buses carrying employees of the Supreme Court, the deadliest attack in the capital in a year and a half.
Wednesday morning, a motorcycle bomb killed an Afghan soldier and civilian in the south of the country, officials said.
The blast was near a market in Helmand province's heavily contested Sangin district, local police chief Ghulam Ali said. Three soldiers, one local police officer and 11 civilians were wounded.
Helmand government spokesman Omar Zwak said the explosives in a parked motorcycle were remotely detonated as an army and police patrol passed by.
In eastern Afghanistan, militants attacked a NATO convoy carrying supplies on Tuesday night, killing two Afghan police officers and two truck drivers, provincial deputy police chief Asadullah Insafi said.
Three insurgents were also killed in the attack in the eastern province of Ghazni, Insafi said.
Associated Press writer Misha Dzhindzhikhashvili in Tbilisi contributed to this report.