TBILISI - A Georgian soldier, who went missing in southern Afghanistan last week, was found dead on Saturday, Georgia’s defence minister said. Minister Irakli Alasania gave no details about the soldier’s death which brings to 19 the number of Georgian troops in the US-led Nato forces killed in Afghanistan over the past three years. “Sergeant Giorgi Kikadze has been found dead today in Afghanistan,” Alasania said in a televised statement. Kikadze, who went missing on December 19 is believed to be the first soldier from the Nato-led ISAF mission to have gone missing since Bowe Bergdahl was taken on June 30, 2009 in the southeastern province of Paktika.
Georgia has 1,570 troops serving in Afghanistan, making the small Caucasus country of 4.5 million the largest non-Nato contributor to the Isaf, according to the defence ministry. After President Mikheil Saakashvili’s government was ousted at parliamentary elections last month, new Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili said he would maintain Georgia’s bid to join Nato. Tbilisi’s Nato aspirations have infuriated Russia which fought a brief war with Georgia in 2008. On Monday Saakashvili is due to visit Georgian troops serving in Afghanistan’s Helmand province for New Year celebrations. There are presently around 100,000 US-led Nato troops fighting a decade-long Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan. Despite the stubborn insurgency, war-weary international forces are seeking to hand control of security to Afghan forces by withdrawing their combat troops by the end of 2014.