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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Georgia Retracts Remarks Amid U.S. Worries

TBILISI, Georgia — Georgia’s defense minister asserted Friday that U.S. training for his Afghanistan-bound troops could also be put to use in any new flare-up with Russia, then he retracted the statement amid American hand-wringing.

Georgian Defense Minister Vasil Sikharulidze told The Associated Press in an interview that the training his troops would receive from the U.S. military before heading to Afghanistan could also be used in Georgia’s “very difficult security environment.” Asked if he was referring to the possibility of another war with Russia, he said, “In general, yes.”

“This experience will be important for the Georgian armed forces itself — for the level of training,” Sikharulidze said.

Within hours, Sikharulidze retracted his comments, which had sparked immediate alarm among U.S. military officials who said they were not giving Georgian troops any training aimed at fighting Russia.

In a second AP interview, Sikharulidze said he did not mean to imply that the training would be used for military missions other than in Afghanistan. He would not say whether the American training program, which focuses on counterinsurgency tactics, would teach the Georgian troops any combat lessons. About 65 Marines will begin training the Georgian soldiers on Sept. 1.