Poland says it will send more than 900 troops to Afghanistan next year to join NATO troops battling Taliban and al-Qaida insurgents.
The Polish Ministry of Defense says the deployment of the troops will start in February 2007. Poland currently has about 100 soldiers stationed at the Bagram air base where the additional 900 troops will be deployed.
Poland will also receive more leadership responsibilities in Afghanistan, as a Polish general is expected to become a deputy commander of the NATO supervised International Security Assistance Force.
The announcement came shortly after NATO asked for over 2,000 troops to help the alliance's force in Afghanistan. Military leaders said NATO troops have met strong resistance from the resurgent Taliban guerrillas and militants linked to the al-Qaida terror network.
But NATO officials said the Polish deployment was agreed before the appeal was made and is part of a planned reinforcement and rotation process.
The Polish announcement coincided with the official visit of Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski to Washington. Since taking office, Mr. Kaczynski also visited Brussels, the center of the European Union.
Poland's political analyst Krzysztof Michalek told Polish radio that Mr. Kaczynski's travel is aimed at burnishing his right-wing coalition government's international image after it has been criticized for its perceived nationalism.
"It seems that the general message from these two visits is that Poland would like to be a strong member of the European Union and a very important ally of the United States, in that order," said Krzysztof Michalek. "The two visits should improve the image of Poland's political establishment."
Poland is a staunch U.S. ally in the war on terrorism and, besides its Afghanistan mission, has sent about 900 soldiers to Iraq.