Last Polish troops come home from Iraq

13:33, 28 October 2008
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Formally ending Poland`s mission in the country

The last group of Polish soldiers stationed in Iraq returned home Tuesday formally ending Poland`s mission in the country that began after the United States toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003, AFP reported.

"The last soliders have come home," Polish army spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Dariusz Kacperczyk told AFP Tuesday.

An aircraft carrying approximately 100 soldiers touched down Tuesday morning at a military base in Szczecin, north-west Poland.

Poland`s Minister of Defence Bogdan Klich will officially greet the men in ceremonies scheduled at the base for Wednesday.

Poland formally closed its mission on October 4 with ceremonies at the Diwaniyah military base where Polish troops were stationed some 180 kilometres south of Baghdad.

A total of 2,600 Polish soldiers were deployed in Iraq in 2003. The contingent was gradually reduced to 900.

In its more than five years of military involvement in Iraq, Poland lost 21 soldiers and saw 70 others wounded, according to US military records.

Around 15,000 individual Polish soldiers had served in Iraq since the 2003 war.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who came to power in October 2007, pledged a quick withdrawal from Iraq during his election campaign.

With the withdrawal by Warsaw, the US-led coalition that invaded Iraq in 2003 has further shrunk.

In May 2003, two months after the US invasion, the occupying force was made up of 150,000 Americans and 23,000 other troops from 40 countries. Now, US numbers are around 144,000 while the coalition has shrunk to less than 10,000.

Besides the US, the coalition now is made up of: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Britain, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, El Salvador, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Romania, Tonga, and Ukraine.


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