Lesser Known GWoT Allies #2


Poland has been mentioned as a Western ally here on Murdoc Online a couple of times before. We like these guys. Poland has been working with us for quite a while now. It was Polish intelligence operatives who supplied us (“the allies”) with Enigma code machines during World War II, which allowed us to break the German code and get an unparalleled advantage during much of the conflict. Sadly they were swallowed up on the other side of the Iron Curtain throughout the Cold War. And in some ways, I think that has made them appreciate freedom more than some of their neighbours to the west do. It’s certainly good to have another European country side with us, who understands the importance of self-determination.

The Polish contribution to Iraq is significant. They sent only 200 soldiers to help during the invasion phase—but some (56) were special forces and played an important role. They then stationed up to 2500 for security duties post-invasion. That number was reduced to 1500 and then further to 900, which is the current strength. They have lost 17 to date, 11 KIA and 6 in accidents (a pattern repeated throughout Iraq). They plan to stay for another year or so at least, despite theats from the late Mr. al Zarqawi that there would be attacks on Poland if they did not. I am glad they have the tenacity, which I have come to expect from the Poles. And, don’t forget, as previously mentioned here on MO, they have donated a bunch of Soviet-era hardware (tanks and APCs) to Iraq, which is exactly what was needed.

Poles control the security in the region south-east of Baghdad and north-west of the British area of operations. As they drew down, they handed some areas over to US troops, but they are still responsible for a significant chunk of territory. Major regions they have been responsible for include Babil, Karbala and Najaf—hot spots whose names we occasionally hear in the news. The Poles work primarily with Ukranian, Bulgarian, El Salvadorian and Danish troops in the south.

Here is an interesting statement I found on Poland’s Washington, D.C. Embassy web site:

Asked about Poland’s Iraq plans in connection with the parliamentary debate on the issue, [commander of Iraq’s Polish-controlled zone general Mieczyslaw Bieniek] said the country could sink into chaos if stabilisation forces left prematurely as coalition troops were currently its sole security mainstay. … Much has been done for stability but there’s still much to be done. They’ll have to leave eventually, but they want to leave a stabilised country, not chaos, Bieniek said. Meanwhile candidate for PM Marek Belka said that the presence of Polish troops in the military intervention in Iraq has clearly strengthened Poland’s position in Europe.

I’m curious what the logic is behind that last statement. I believe Poland have done themselves a favour by strengthening ties with the other countries in the coalition and setting themselves up as a solid partner, but I don’t see how that translates into prestige within Europe. Perhaps they are talking about their ties with countries like Italy, Denmark and the Netherlands, not Germany and France.

For some more great photos of the Poles in action, check out this official gallery, and here is the English version of the Polish Land Forces web site. More great photos of Polish troops here.

Below the fold: Republic of Korea and Georgia.

Republic of Korea (South Korea)

I had a really hard time finding both photos and information on Korean troops in Iraq. Perhaps it is because I don’t speak or read Korean. As a nation they have taken to the internet like a fish to water so it wouldn’t surprise me if most of their web pages are entirely English-free. The lack of information is quite strange, however, when you realize that the South Korean contingent was the largest other than the US and UK, and despite recent reductions is numbers from 3300 to about 2300, is still the fourth largest (after Italy). Perhaps another reason we don’t hear much about them is that they are mostly deployed in the peaceful Kurdish regions, although some are present in the southern, Shi’ite-dominated areas.

Everything I have read about Korean troops—not only during the Korean war but also in Vietnam—makes them out to be fearsome warriors. However, given the *ahem* questionable logic behind their calls to evict the US military from their own country while their not-so-friendly neighbours in the North stare them down, I suppose it’s not surprising that their politicians are drawing down their Iraq commitment. On the other hand, the soldiers don’t seem quite so eager to leave. That’s a message common to the soldiers of most countries on duty in Iraq.

The South Korean forces in Iraq are, by and large, not combat forces. Like the Japanese they are primarily engineers and medics, although they do have some armed troops. As a result, they seem to have suffered few casualties. Perhaps that’s why we don’t hear much about them from the MSM. Besides working on scores of coalition bases, Korean engineers have also upgraded universities, high schools, elementary schools and provided students with scholarships as well as children with sporting goods.

In connection with the Iraqi situation, Korea hopes that a legitimate and democratic government elected by the Iraqis themselves will be established now that sovereignty has been returned to them, that the country’s reconstruction projects will pick up pace to improve the economy and living conditions, and that the international community will redouble humanitarian aid.

By now maybe they feel those wishes are starting to become reality.

Many handy details of their accomplishments are listed in this document (PDF). For once, I found an MSM article discussing their involvement here. Oh, and from the picture in that article, it’s pretty clear they brought some tanks with them. Accept no substitute.


No, this is not the Georgia with swamps and alligators, it’s the one wedged between Turkey and Russia. They have 400 troops as part of the coalition and another 500 as UN peacekeepers—quite a large commitment for a such a small country with a population of less than five million. Their contribution is primarily special forces, engineers and medical personnel. Many of them are deployed in Bakuba (a.k.a. Baquba), a name some may be familiar with.

Iraq isn’t far from Georgia’s back-yard so they likely have an interest in keeping the area as quiet as possible. Then again, they themselves seem to be having some issues with terrorism. They also seem to have strained relations with their big neighbour Russia. I suppose that explains at least some of their enthusiasm for coming under the Western sphere of influence. Let’s hope they really are serious about ending terrorism.

Some Georgian personnel have been injured in Iraq but I am not aware of any deaths. The USA is helping to train many of their forces, and it shows in the level of discipline they display.

We are proud that we have been given the honor to provide help to the people of Iraq,” [battalion commander Capt. Niko Nemsitsveridze] said at the ceremony at the Krtsanisi training center south of the Georgian capital, Tbilisi.

This is a big deal for them, and I for one appreciate their help. You can visit the Georgia Ministry of Defence for more pictures and information.

Other posts in this series: #1 (Romania, Italy and Japan), #3 (Australia, Denmark and El Salvador).

Update: Added mention of Poland’s special forces after GeekLethal alerted me to their role in Iraq.

—posted by Nicholas.


  1. Yea I’ve been aware of Poland’s contributions in Iraq, unlike my ignorance of all the help provided by Romania. Good to see another feature on our East Euro allies. Thanks!

  2. but I don’t see how that translates into prestige within Europe. Perhaps they are talking about their ties with countries like Italy, Denmark and the Netherlands, not Germany and France. Actually, it is directly aimed at France and Germany. By siding with the US and sending troops to Iraq, it pisses off both France and Germany who thought Poland would be a grateful lackey. Also, Even though Germany sponsored Poland entry into the EU. Both Germany and France restricted Poles from freely entering those two countries. Last ut not least is Polands chance to one up Germany on the world stage