Georgia's new defense minister nominee Irakli Alasania has said that he wants to decrease the size of the country's military, making it leaner and quicker:
“We need a very small but highly mobile army that will be able to stand up to new threats” such as terrorism and extremism, said Alasania, leader of the Our Georgia-Free Democrats party, in an interview with RIA Novosti.
This is standard 21st century defense ministry rhetoric around the world, and it's especially something that U.S. defense advisers work on with partner post-Soviet militaries, which inherited a legacy of poorly trained but large armed forces, focused primarily on territorial defense.
But Georgia is an interesting case, since it does have a territorial dispute with Russia and the breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Jane's Sentinel (full entry subscription only) notes that Georgia had been on the path to a smaller, leaner armed forces, but that that was derailed by the 2008 war with Russia:
The Georgian Armed Forces (GAF) are currently in the midst of wide-reaching reforms. The Strategic Defence Review (SDR) of 2007 set out a restructuring programme for the period to 2015 that ultimately sought to develop relatively small, numerous and more deployable brigades within a joint forces command structure that would ultimately do away with separate combat naval and air forces.
While some progress has been made towards these structural reforms, the August 2008 conflict with Russia and the separatist territories caused major disruption by destroying much of the military hardware and infrastructure that GAF had built up since 2002 and by demonstrating the inadequacy of post-2002 training, doctrine and especially command appointments. In response, GAF has pursued a policy of recruitment that has seen total personnel strength boom from under 23,000 in 2006 to almost 37,000 in early 2009, falling to around 33,000 by October 2009. In the original SDR, the envisaged strength for 2009 was 26,000.
Alasania also recently drew attention for suggesting that Georgia may not participate in the NATO mission to Afghanistan after 2014, noting that Georgia has just lost its 18th soldier in the war there:
“It is very difficult to talk about continuation of the mission and continuation of the policy when we lost another brave soldier a few days ago. But everyone should understand that this is a responsibility of the country. It is a burden and obligation which Georgia has undertaken for ensuring international security.” Alasania said.
He explained that ISAF plans a withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan in 2014 and Georgia will also take part in this withdrawal.
“From 2014 we will start the process of returning our soldiers home.” Alasania stated.
President Mikheil Saakashvili had promised that Georgia's commitment to Afghanistan would extend past 2014, and during special representative James Appathurai's recent visit to Georgia, he said he hoped Georgia would stay involved:
"We do not want to plan anything without Georgia’s involvement. Georgia might be willing to make its contribution to the Afghanistan mission after 2014, and this contribution will be very important", said Appathurai.
It would make sense for Georgia to reduce, but not completely abandon, its Afghanistan mission, said military analyst Irakli Aladashvili, speaking to The Messenger:
“I have always stated that such a large contingent of soldiers and in such dangerous province as Helmand is not necessary. We started with 170 soldiers and the number has increased to more than 1000 … 18 Georgian soldiers have already been killed and such facts have created a negative public attitude towards the mission…” Aladashvili stated.
Not having 1,000 of your best troops in a faraway conflict (not to mention the logistical support those troops require back in Georgia) would certainly be a way of reducing the size of your military.