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Spain Pledges Troops to Polish Division

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

BRUSSELS, Belgium, June 12, 2003 – Spain today pledged 1,100 troops to the Polish-led division that will become part of the coalition force in Iraq.

At the NATO defense ministerial, Spanish Defense Minister Federico Trillo-Figueroa y Martnez-Conde confirmed his country would provide the military aid.

NATO has already agreed to help Poland with the force. The alliance will not have any permanent presence in Iraq, but will aid Poland in supporting roles. These include help with force generation, communications, logistics and movements, said NATO officials.

Poland volunteered to form the division. A Polish brigade will be the nucleus for the division, which could ultimately number between 7,000 and 9,000 soldiers, according to Polish officials.

Ukraine has also volunteered to contribute 1,700 troops, and Hungary will provide 500, along with 800 from Honduras and El Salvador. Several other countries have also volunteered smaller numbers.

Force-generation conferences will occur over the next few weeks to figure out in what particular areas that NATO will be able to support the Poles, officials said.

U.S. officials are pleased both with Poland's decision to form the division and with NATO's offer of support.

"We are enthusiastic about NATO's decision to help the Poles," said a senior DoD official speaking on background. "It's a big step for NATO. It's a strong commitment to a new ally who is stepping up to very important responsibilities and it will be viewed as very helpful to the coalition. It's a winner all around as far as we're concerned."

Poland joined NATO in 1999. Its troops have supported operations in the Balkans and in Afghanistan, providing important support in the war against global terrorism.

NATO officials said they will study the Polish deployment experience in Iraq carefully with an eye toward what lessons it would have for the NATO Reaction Force.

The reaction force will ultimately consist of 20,000 service members from NATO countries. It will be able to deploy out of the European area in days rather than months, it will be light and lethal, and NATO will be able to sustain the force in place for up to a year.

NATO defense ministers approved a concept of operations for the NATO Response Force during the defense planning committee meeting today. A senior defense official said there is strong enthusiasm for the force, which has translated into its accelerated development. He said plans now call for an early capability by this fall and initial operational capability in fall 2004.

The NATO Reaction Force will also be a focal point for another important NATO initiative to develop new capabilities for the alliance. The official said the capabilities needed to create the reaction force represent the high-priority capabilities that nations need to invest in. He pointed specifically to strategic airlift and sealift as particularly important aspects.

NATO also must invest in secure communications technologies and precision-guided weapons.

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