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Rumsfeld Thanks Polish Defense Leader for Terror War Support

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 19, 2005 – Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld thanked Polish Minister of Defense Jerzy Szmajdzinski today for his country's support and leadership in the global war on terror.

"The American people have greatly appreciated Poland's support in the global struggle against extremists," Rumsfeld said during a joint news conference here.

Those contributions are recognized, not only by the United States, but also by its coalition friends and allies around the world, the secretary said.

Polish engineer units were among the first coalition units deployed in the global war on terror and played a major role in preparing Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan to support combat operations, and Polish warships deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Rumsfeld said.

In Iraq, Poland is leading the Multinational Division Central South in Iraq, where it has helped provide security and stabilization in the region. Polish troops in the division have played an important role in training and equipping Iraq's security forces, a critical step toward Iraq's self-reliance, Rumsfeld said.

"In the years ahead, history will remember...and honor the contributions (Polish troops) they have made," the secretary said.

Szmajdzinski called his country's participation in Iraq and Afghanistan "a great experience for us" and thanked the United States' close military cooperation that paved the way for it to take place.

The benefits of that mutual cooperation have been "really vast," he said, noting that U.S. support is helping the Polish armed forces transform into a "more mobile, more capable" force better able to carry out a full range of military operations.

Szmajdzinski thanked the United States for its $100 million contribution to Poland to help it modernize its armed forces. President Bush proposed the funding during a February Oval Office meeting with Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski. At that meeting, Bush thanked Kwasniewski for his country's cooperation in the war in Iraq, saying that the two nations have a "mutual desire to train Iraqis to that they can defend their own freedom."

Rumsfeld said he expects the State Department and Congress to act on the U.S. financial commitment to Poland "in the weeks ahead." Szmajdzinski said the funds will help support training, equipment and a strategic review of Poland's armed forces during 2005 and 2006.

Noting that his tenure as minister of defense will soon end, Szmajdzinski presented Rumsfeld the Order of Merit of the People's Republic of Poland on behalf of Kwasniewski. The medal can be granted to foreign citizens and Polish citizens living abroad who have contributed greatly to international cooperation and bilateral cooperation between Republic of Poland and other nations.

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