September 10, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Georgia's decision to double its number of peacekeepers in Iraq has prompted concerns at home about deploying more forces at a time when many contingents are reducing their sizes or withdrawing from Iraq altogether.
Since Tbilisi boosted its troop numbers two months ago, Georgia now has 2,000 troops in Iraq -- the third-largest presence in the coalition, after the United States and Britain.
But in spite of the conflicted public opinion, for the Georgian military the Iraq operations are an opportunity to gain on-the-ground experience -- and bolster Tbilisi's case for entering NATO.
One Georgian commander, Major Zaza Kvaraia, arrived in late July in the eastern Iraqi town of Al-Kut to prepare accommodations for the 2,000 Georgian peacekeepers deployed to combat illegal weapons smuggling.
It's a sensitive operation that involves working alongside Iraqi troops in Wasit Governorate, close to the Iran-Iraq border.
But Kvaraia, who has previous experience as a part of a peacekeeping contingent in Kosovo, says the situation remains quiet as the troops wait for direct operations to begin.