Amid all the hand-wringing over the Russia-Georgia horrorshow, one small ripple effect has gone largely unreported. As of last year, when it added more than a thousand troops to the approximately 800 that were already in Iraq, Georgia became the third-largest contributor to forces in the country, behind only the United States and the United Kingdom.
When that happened, the now-2,000 strong Georgian force in Iraq also underwent a mission change. Previously, the 800 Georgians in the country worked in a noncombat role. But after the increase, Georgia's primary mission in Iraq was to patrol the border between Iraq and Iran, particularly in Iraq's southeastern Wasit province.
The Reuters story detailing Georgia's redirection of troops from Iraq to the nation's beleaguered homeland includes only a passing mention of the border-security issue, offering the U.S. military's statement that "it would readjust its force structure to make up for the departing troops and did not anticipate a long-term impact on overall security in Iraq." But with an army already stretched to its limits -- a fact confirmed by several high-ranking generals, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and the current Secretary of Defense, among many others -- that statement can only be taken with a healthy handful of salt.
At best, American troops will be put further in harm's way. At worst, a large section of the Iraq-Iran border is now open to the free flow of weapons and personnel.