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    U.S., Georgia start joint drills near Tbilisi

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    A joint Georgian-U.S. military exercise, Immediate Response 2008, has started near Georgia's capital, Tbilisi, and will continue throughout July, the Georgian Defense Ministry said Tuesday.

    TBILISI, July 15 (RIA Novosti) - A joint Georgian-U.S. military exercise, Immediate Response 2008, has started near Georgia's capital, Tbilisi, and will continue throughout July, the Georgian Defense Ministry said Tuesday.

    A total of 1,650 personnel, including troops from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Ukraine, are taking part in the $8 million exercise, planned by the U.S. Armed Forces European Command and financed by the U.S. Defense Department.

    U.S. and Georgian forces started force protection training in preparation for the exercise last Monday.

    Soldiers from U.S. Army Europe's 18th Military Police Brigade and 21st Theater Sustainment Command and Georgian soldiers from the 4th Infantry Brigade continued to develop working relationships as they learned to conduct personnel and vehicle searches at an entrance control point.

    "We are responsible for force protection," said Army Capt. David Morishuili, a Georgian security officer. "We needed to learn how the U.S. Army conducts force protection operations so we can better work together in Iraq."

    The Georgian military currently has units conducting operations in Iraq along with U.S. and other coalition forces. The Georgian 4th Brigade is scheduled to deploy to Iraq in the near future.

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