Corridors of Power: U.S. Troops in Georgia, Covering Rachita Dati, and More

NOT IN HARM'S WAY? -- About 150 U.S. military personnel had an almost ringside seat at the Russian sweep across Georgia between Aug. 8 and 12 -- an airbase near the Georgian capital, Tibilisi. Military spokesmen in the Pentagon and in Europe told Corridors that the American troops had been involved in a just-completed large-scale joint U.S.-Georgian exercise but had remained behind when the fighting erupted.

More than 1,000 U.S. soldiers and marines had taken part in "Immediate Response 2008," designed to improve cooperation in combat situations between American and Georgian forces. The exercise ended on July 31, but members of the American contingent were still being airlifted out of Georgia on Aug 7, the day of the Georgia's disastrous military incursion into the separatist enclave of South Ossetia that triggered the Russian response. The departing troops included (nice touch) 300 members of the Georgia Army National Guard -- the state not the country.

Left behind when the pullout was halted were more troops from the exercise, including some who had been training Georgian forces, and some military equipment used in "Immediate Response 2008." Officials said the U.S. troops left in Georgia were not involved in the fighting and were not in harm's way. But the air base at Vaziani, main site of the exercise and presumed location of the Americans was bombed by Russian aircraft during the fighting.

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