I just returned from Afghanistan and will be updating in more detail soon. In the meantime, I have a piece in Friday’s Wall Street Journal Europe which you can read here:
OPINION EUROPE MAY 27, 2011
President Obama owes Warsaw his gratitude for Poland’s outsized support in the war on terror.
Barack Obama is due to make his first presidential visit to Poland today, as part of his week-long tour through a Europe that is more deeply divided than ever over foreign policy. To the east, Moscow is looking for ways to drive a wedge between Washington and Brussels. To the south, in North Africa, the Arab uprisings are sending immigrants en masse to European shores. And European nations have for years seemed unable to agree on how they feel about their American ally, a sentiment that often appears to be reciprocated from across the Atlantic.
In all this, one of the few constants has been Poland’s loyalty to America, even when that commitment has conflicted with Poland’s other interests. Yet Mr. Obama’s attitude toward the Poles has often seemed oblivious of Poland’s sacrifices at best, and dismissive at worst. When Mr. Obama’s team scrapped the missile defense plan that Warsaw had agreed with the Bush administration—much to the displeasure of Moscow and Poland’s Western European partners—it added insult to injury by doing so on Sept. 17, 2009, the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Poland in 1939.
Let’s hope Mr. Obama is better versed in his contemporary Polish history, and uses tonight’s working dinner with the heads of Central European states to highlight Poland’s outsize efforts in Afghanistan. Today, Poland is one of America’s few allies with troops in Afghanistan whose mission, without caveats, is to fight. Poland, unlike Germany and France, deploys its soldiers to the war with the full expectation that they will find and kill enemy combatants. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner was blunt last year in his response to Mr. Obama’s call for a troop surge: “We don’t want to send more troops to fight.”
Poland’s troops are as committed to fighting and winning the war as their American allies. For evidence of just how much the U.S. military has come to trust and rely on its Polish colleagues, look no further than Polish Brigadier Gen. Slawomir Wojciechowski, a graduate of the U.S. Army War College in Pennsylvania, who commands an entire U.S. infantry battalion in Afghanistan. “There is no real terrorist threat in Poland,” admits Gen. Wojciechowski. “We are here in solidarity with America. That’s something that Poles feel strongly.”
You can read the rest here.