The embassy of the Republic of Georgia said Thursday the former Soviet republic is raising the number of soldiers it has with the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq to more than 2,000 from its current 850.
A statement sent to The Associated Press and attributed to Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said the country was committing its troops for one year. Georgian officials were consulting with their U.S. and Iraqi counterparts about how the troops would be deployed.
"We understand that the next year will be decisive in terms of stabilizing the situation in that country," Saakashvili said in the statement. "We want to do everything possible to help the Iraqi people and coalition partners bring stability, peace and freedom to Iraq."
The announcement by the small U.S. ally bordering Russia comes as President Bush has begun to boost U.S. troop levels despite intense opposition to the war at home. It also follows plans by a number of U.S partners in Iraq to pull back.
Bush's longtime war ally British Prime Minister Tony Blair has said he will withdraw about 1,600 troops from Iraq over the next few months and hopes to make other cuts to the 7,100-strong contingent by late summer. Denmark is leaving. Lithuania says it may withdraw its tiny 53-troop contingent.
But Georgia, which also recently announced it would offer troops to the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan, has been seeking to reduce Russian influence amid tense relations with its giant neighbor. The country's leaders have been looking westward, courting NATO and the European Union. It is pursuing close ties with the United States, which has helped train and equip Georgian forces for service in Iraq.
In the statement Thursday, Georgia specified that its contribution to Afghanistan would be more than 100 troops.