I'm in Tbilisi today with all the other Permanent Representatives to NATO. Hospitality alone makes traveling here a must, but when all 28 Ambassadors travel together, there's always a good reason. This trip is no exception -- we're here to discuss Georgia's many contributions to NATO, and our strong partnership going forward.
Georgia is on the path to NATO membership. It is undergoing the rigorous political and military reforms that our Alliance requires. NATO will be closely watching Georgia's upcoming 2012 parliamentary elections and 2013 presidential election as a gauge of their progress.
More immediately, this trip is a good chance for us to assess Georgia's progress and sticking points in its ongoing efforts to achieve rule of law, a substantive democratic process, media freedom, and an independent judiciary. To this end, we are meeting with Georgia's parliament, including opposition, President Saakashvili, and a number of civil society members and NGOs.
While we work with Georgia on its ongoing reforms, we will certainly be thanking the nation for its strong friendship. Georgia has proved itself as a dedicated partner to NATO.
Georgia is currently the second largest non-NATO contributor to NATO's mission in Afghanistan, contributing 950 troops. And it's about to become the biggest. President Saakashvili committed this past June to add 750 more troops in 2012. Many of these troops (a full infantry battalion) fight side-by-side with Americans.
Georgia' friendship extends to action well beyond Afghanistan. It has joined NATO forces in Operation Active Endeavour, helping us to monitor shipping on the Mediterranean Sea, and prevent the transport of terrorists or weapons of mass destruction.
It's well worth the trip to this beautiful capital to thank Georgia's leaders and service members for their strong and growing friendship. NATO is eager to continue working with Georgia as it progresses to a fully open and transparent society.
Editor's Note: This entry also appears on Ambassador Daalder's blog.