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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 July, 2003, 16:19 GMT 17:19 UK
Poles face tricky desert mission
By Adam Easton
BBC, Warsaw

Polish troops
Poland admits its mission may be tough
Amid the green fields of the Polish countryside, troops prepare for their mission in the deserts of Iraq.

Poland, a staunch European ally of the United States, will take command of more than 9,000 troops from 15 different nations when preparations are ready at the beginning of September.

In recent years, Poland has sent soldiers on peacekeeping missions in countries like Kosovo and Afghanistan but they have never before commanded a second of this size with troops from so many nations.

Poland will send the main body of its 2,300 troops to the central Iraqi sector in mid-August along with soldiers from countries as diverse as Spain, the Ukraine and the Philippines.

Poland was given command of the sector, which is sandwiched between the US and British sectors, after a small group of its troops fought in the war against Iraq.

But faced with a deteriorating security situation in Iraq, Poland's troops are aware their mission will be difficult.

I think my soldiers are fully prepared for their mission
Captain Jaroslaw Posadzy

Since major combat operations ended in the beginning of May, 28 US and British troops have been killed.

I asked Captain Jaroslaw Posadzy, chief logistics officer of the 25th Airborne Brigade, whether he was worried about going to Iraq.

"Yes, a little - yes," he told me. "It's a long way from Poland. We don't know what the Iraqi people will be looking for from us.

Soldier bids farewell to baby
Soldiers are heading for a worsening security situation
"I think the biggest challenge will be to give peace to the people and to co-operate with the rest of the people in Iraq."

Captain Posadzy insists that the Polish force will deal with any situation they find themselves in.

"I think my soldiers are fully prepared for their mission," he said.

All the Polish troops who will go to Iraq are volunteers. Others will replace them after six months.

It is not just the considerably higher salaries the troops will earn in Iraq that have proved an irresistible draw.

Whilst not under-estimating the steep learning curve they have ahead of them, there is a real enthusiasm to take part in the operation.


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