Relief agencies fear that their workers could be put in jeopardy by what they call the “militarization” of humanitarian operations in Georgia. In making the effort a military operation, they fear the line will be blurred between military and civilian aid, and that civilian aid workers may be mistaken for soldiers.
Brigadier General Jon Miller, the head of the relief efforts, denied having heard any such objections, and insisted that the military was essential to the success of the operation. However the Baltimore Sun quotes a senior US official as saying “there are reasons why we did a military lead, as a matter of foreign policy,” suggesting that the reasons were perhaps more political than operational. A spokesman for one of the leading civilian aid agencies the International Rescue Committee said “My sense is that the reason the military is there is not because it was needed to stand up a humanitarian response, but for other reasons”.
Though many of the displaced are already heading home large numbers remain displaced amid stories of militia intimidation and rampant looting. Russia has assured people within the buffer zone that they are in the process of pulling back, though Gori’s governor declared that this was a lie and that the troops would find some excuse to remain.
The first US military ship docked at the Georgian port of Batumi earlier this week, and a large number of NATO ships have been in the Black Sea recently on what NATO described as unrelated exercises. Russia has accused the US military of shipping weapons to Georgia, and has warned that the US naval build-up could be seen as a declaration of war.