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War on Terrorism: Pankisi Gorge

The Pankisi Gorge is a region of the former Soviet republic of Georgia, near the border with the breakaway Russian province of Chechnya. Many of the residents of the Gorge region are ethnically similar to the residents of Chechnya. During the civil war in Chechnya, Chechen rebels have frequently crossed the Chechnya-Georgia border and used the Pankisi Gorge as a base for operations in Chechnya.

In late February 2002, as part of its "War on Terrorism", the U.S. sent approximately two hundred Special Operations Forces troops to Georgia to train Georgian troops. This move drew protests from many Russians, who believed that Georgia should remain within the Russian sphere of influence, and not the United States'. On March 1, 2002, over domestic outcry, Russian president Vladimir Putin met with Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze[?] in Kazakhstan and pledged his support for the American military initiative.

U.S. officials have announced that sixty-four million dollars is being provided to train and equip four three-hundred man battalions with light weapons, vehicles and communications.

Russian officials too, have attempted to attack the Chechen militants in the gorge. In September, Russian officials announced that they had concluded a deal with Georgia to allow the Russian military access to the gorge, but that announcement was disputed by Georgia. Georgia has also accused Russia of carrying out bombing raids in the gorge region.

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