Many people heard of last month’s article in Time magazine, citing several unnamed sources who were critical of Polish troops in Afghanistan. It caused quite a stir in Poland (the Polish Defense Minister called it “scandalous“), as well as among the American military, who consider Poland a strong ally.
General Petraeus was quick to counter the criticism in an official statement:
“I have been privileged to command coalition efforts in Iraq and, now, in Afghanistan. In each case, Polish forces were very important members of the coalition and demonstrated impressive courage, professional expertise, and commitment. In each mission, I spent considerable time with Polish forces and valued highly what our Polish partners brought to the fight. Indeed, given my experiences serving with Polish forces during some 5-1/2 years in Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan since 2001, I believe I am uniquely qualified to comment on the enormous contributions Polish forces made in those countries – and that very much includes the contributions they are currently making in Afghanistan.”
“Most recently, I visited Polish forces last week in Ghazni, and as in the past, I was very impressed by the excellent work of the Polish contingent. Brigadier General Reudowicz and the Polish conventional, special operations, and mentoring forces have established superb relationships with their Afghan counterparts. They are carrying out a comprehensive campaign in a very challenging part of Afghanistan, and doing it in outstanding fashion. They have, as they did in Iraq, sustained tough casualties over the years, but they have never wavered.”
General John Campbell, Commander of the Afghan region where Polish troops are currently stationed also issued a statement saying:
“I was dismayed at reported comments made by unnamed US senior leaders and some unnamed members of my command. I can assure you I will personally address the issue of disparaging comments to the press made about our Coalition partners.”
When I speak with American military personnel who have worked with the Poles in theater they almost universally praise their Polish allies. Because the Time article used unnamed sources in all but one instance (it cites a local Afghan police chief), it’s difficult to judge whether these anecdotes genuinely reflect the reality on the ground, or whether this reporter dug up the most damaging quotes he could find and painted the entire picture with that brush. I hope that in my future trip to Afghanistan I can find out more.