The Cable reported last week that Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg was being considered to be the next dean of Georgetown's School of Foreign Service. "It would be news to me," Steinberg emailed to say when asked for comment before we published the item. State Department spokesman PJ Crowley later provided the following statement saying that Steinberg is not "a candidate" for the deanship. "He has a great job now as a key player within the administration helping develop policy alternatives regarding the most complex and urgent challenges facing our country. He is not seeking another one."
Richard Holbrooke, the special representative for the issue formerly known as Af-Pak, will visit Georgia "shortly," with plans to finalize the deployment of Georgian troops to Afghanistan.
Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg revealed that Holbrooke will go to Georgia while traveling in Tbilisi Friday. Sources said the current thinking is that the visit will occur toward the end of February.
So what will Holbrooke be doing there? Well, in addition to possibly discussing Georgia President Mikheil Saakashvili's offer to allow his country to become a supply route to Afghanistan, which Steinberg reportedly said was a Pentagon matter, Georgian sources tell The Cable that Holbrooke will be putting the final touches on the plan to deploy Georgian troops to Afghanistan in March.
In Georgia, they are calling it the "Holbrooke Brigade," according to a source close to the Georgian government. The plan is for 750 Georgian troops to be deployed in Helmand province at the personal request of Gen. David Petraeus, the source said, who was impressed with their effectiveness along the Iranian border during operations in Iraq. According to the current plan, they will be under U.S. command and supplementing 350 Georgian troops already in country as part of the International Security Assistance Force.
It will be the largest per-capita contribution of any country in Afghanistan other than the U.S. One lingering question that the Georgians plan to raise with Holbrooke is whether the U.S. will offer them any military aid for the mission. The U.S. has not provided any lethal military aid to Georgia since their war with Russian in 2008, but the Georgians may need some items, such as parts for the U.S.-made M4 rifles they will be using in the Afghanistan mission.
In a December report, Senate Foreign Relations ranking Republican Richard Lugar, R-IN, argued for an end to the unofficial ban of U.S. lethal military aid to Georgia, arguing that the increase of Russian arms near there was dangerously tipping the balance.
"The United States, under substantial Russian diplomatic pressure, has paused the transfer of lethal military articles to Georgia, and no U.S. assistance since the war has been directly provided to the Georgian Ministry of Defense," the report stated. "Consequently, Georgia lacks basic capacity for territorial defense."