Two weeks ago, the Ministry of Defense announced that the Polish contingent would consist of 146 soldiers, most of them military police, and four civilians. However, comments last week by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner created confusion. Kouchner said Poland planned to send 350 soldiers to the central African country.
The Polish opposition’s minister of defense in the shadow cabinet, Bronislaw Komorowski, used the French statement to criticize Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s government for not making clear the exact number of troops to be sent.
Polish Foreign Minister Anna Fotyga said details of the mission in Chad are still being negotiated among participants of the operation.
Polish media have spoken of a linking of Polish and French interests during a EU summit in Lisbon. According to the daily Gazeta Wyborcza, the stronger Polish military presence in Chad was the price for French backing of Polish demands for a mechanism to delay EU decisions in the reform treaty signed in the Portuguese capital.
The peacekeeping mission follows the UN Security Council’s decision on Aug. 1 to send 26,000 international peacekeepers to Darfur in Sudan to stop the massacres which have killed an estimated 200,000 people and have driven 2 mln from their homes. Many of them fled to nearby Chad, where they live now in refugee camps. At the UN’s request, the EU will send 4,000 soldiers to Chad to provide security for the civilians and humanitarian aid workers.
About half of these forces will come from the French Army. The remainder will come mostly from Ireland, Belgium and Sweden. The mission will be commanded by Irish Gen. Pat Nash. This will be the second Polish Army operation in Africa. An earlier mission sent 170 soldiers to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (170 soldiers). Currently Polish soldiers also take part in missions in Iraq (900), Afghanistan (1,200), Syria (360), Lebanon (640), Bosnia-Herzegovina (300), Albania (140) and Kosovo (800).