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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » January 9, 2008
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Polish Troops in Iraq Until October
January 9, 2008   
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Prime Minister Donald Tusk Dec. 21 officially approved extending the mission of Polish troops in Iraq until Oct. 31.

Poland backed the American-led invasion of Iraq in the spring of 2003. Warsaw deployed a commando unit to the Persian Gulf area.

Polish troops started a so-called stabilization mission in Iraq in September 2003 when the Polish-commanded Multinational Division Center-South took over from the Americans responsibility for the central-southern zone of the country, comprising five of Iraq's 18 provinces.

The Polish contingent numbered nearly 2,500 soldiers. The multinational division numbered 9,000 troops from 21 countries.

At first Polish soldiers performed so-called stabilization tasks: they helped with the country's reconstruction, carried out patrols, and protected the headquarters of the Iraqi local authorities against attacks, for example, during the rebellion of the radical Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr in 2004. Later their tasks focused on advising and training the new Iraqi armed forces. The Polish contingent was reduced to 1,600, then to 1,400, and eventually to 900 troops. The multinational division was also reduced, with countries withdrawing their forces or decreasing their contingents. The zone controlled by the multinational division also shrank. Now the division includes contingents from eight countries apart from Poland.

The situation in Qadisiyah province where the division headquarters moved from Babil province was not stable, however. The Echo Base in Diwaniyah came under mortar fire, and military patrols were attacked on roads. Last spring Polish military commanders and the defense ministry decided to relaunch "operational-stabilization" missions.

Twenty-seven Poles have died as a result of military operations in Iraq since 2003. They include 21 soldiers, three former soldiers employed by foreign security agencies, two journalists, and an officer from the Government Protection Office.
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