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BTC Pipeline: Georgia

Politics

In its quest to free itself from dependence on Middle Eastern oil, the United States -- the consumer of nearly a quarter of the world's oil and its most formidable military power -- has been a vocal proponent of the BTC pipeline. In Georgia, the U.S.'s most pressing security concern has focused on the Pankisi gorge, a lawless stretch of territory that runs through the Caucasus Mountains in northeastern Georgia. The Pankisi gorge contains a complex mixture of Chechen refugees, mercenary forces, jihadis, and criminals. After September 11, 2001, the Pankisi gorge became a target in the U.S.-led War on Terror when it was revealed that al-Qaeda operatives were thought to be hiding out inside its murky depths.

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The interplay between the military and politics is strong in Georgia.
In May, 2002, a team of U.S. marines began a two year, $64 million program to train Georgian soldiers under the rubric of fighting terrorism. The official purpose of Georgia Train and Equip, or GTEP, was to train six battalions of Georgian soldier in basic infantry tactics. However, noting that the U.S. had long sought to establish a base for troops in the region, some held that the real reason for the U.S. military presence in Georgia was more obvious than the War on Terror: U.S. troops were there to protect oil. Complicating matters, in July, 2004 the international media began reporting that, under strong words from Georgia's president Mikhail Saakashvili, Georgian forces had begun shelling Tskhinvali in South Ossetia. The BTC will pass within 55 kilometers of the South Ossetia conflict region.

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