The Pankisi Gorge in Georgia, which borders Chechnya, has long provided a transit route for money, weapons and militants into and out of the Russian republic. It has been alleged that al Qaeda operates training camps in the region.
Alexander Bortnikov, head of Russia’s FSB, has gone further and claimed that his security organs have gathered audio evidence that Georgia has been actively involved in training and lending safe passage to terrorists operating in Chechnya and Dagestan.
Naturally the Georgian authorities have denied strenuously any cooperation with al Qaeda. Tbilisi can point to forces which it has contributed to struggles against Islamist terror, in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Bortinkov’s allegations might simply represent another front in the propaganda war between Russia and Georgia. However President Saakashvili has demonstrated a penchant for rash and underhand tactics, as well as pathological dishonesty.
It is not beyond the realms of possibility that Georgia has something to hide.