In the Polish capital Warsaw, President Aleksander Kwasniewski stressed that Poland maintained faith in its mission.
“There is no way we are going to abandon the job after the first or second setback, to say ‘sorry, we didn’t realise how hard it would be’,” he said on Polish radio.
In Iraq, similar sentiments were expressed by Polish General Andrzej Tyszkiewicz, the head of Poland’s multinational division, when the US Marines handed him command of five provinces in south-central Iraq between Baghdad and Basra, just north of the British zone.
The Polish-led division “was founded with the help of our American friends and thanks to the brave decision by 21 countries” that will contribute troops, Tyszkiewicz said at the ceremony in Hilla, the site of ancient Babylon.
Poland, he said, remained firm in its desire to help the Iraqi people, and build a new basis of peaceful existence.
However, an opinion poll in early August showed that 60% of Poles oppose sending troops to Iraq while only 34% approve.
Rzeczpospolita, one of Poland’s most influential papers, conceded that “our presence in Iraq includes enormous risks”.
Meanwhile, a US-appointed Iraqi occupation cabinet was sworn in on Wednesday as more evidence suggests the superpower is in need of international support.
The 25 members of the new cabinet were selected to represent Iraq’s various communities, with 13 ministries going to Shia Muslims, five to Sunni Muslims, five to Kurds, one to the Turkmanis and one to Christians.
But the cabinet will report to the US occupation administrator Paul Bremer’s Governing Council. Each ministry will also continue to be supervised by an occupation-appointed advisor, most of whom are American.
Bremer (C) will retain
And Paul Bremer, the top US official in Iraq, will retain overall authority until an elected government is in place, though no election has been scheduled.
But Bremer claims the interim cabinet will enjoy real control over the running of government, even if ultimate sovereignty remains with the US-led occupation.
Adding to the casualty crisis, a congressional report released on Wednesday warns that the United States will be unable to sustain its occupation force in Iraq without increasing the overall size of its $400 billion-a-year military.
The Congressional Budget Office said that if the current policy of keeping army units in a war zone no longer that one year is preserved, the US Army “would be unable to sustain” its present Iraq contingent “beyond about March 2004.”
More than 180,000 US troops are currently deployed in Iraq and neighbouring Gulf nations Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait, according to congressional officials.
Unless there is a change in policy, the army will be able to keep in Iraq indefinitely only between 38,000 and 64,000 troops, according to the CBO report circulated on Capitol Hill on Tuesday evening.
“It’s getting crazy out there, and we can’t be everywhere at the same time”
US forces struggling to keep control in Tikrit and concerned by near-daily fatalities yearn to see more troops from other nations share the work of occupation.
Tikrit-based Sergeant Michael Evans said: “It’s getting crazy out there, and we can’t be everywhere at the same time,” referring to Iraq’s recent string of bomb blasts and resistance attacks.
“It’s time the rest of the world gave us a little reinforcement. We’re paying for too much of this. I think we should scale down and let others come in.”
Four US soldiers were wounded when their convoy struck an explosive device near Tikrit, an army spokeswoman said on Wednesday.
She added that the four injured were in stable condition but that two army Humvee vehicles were destroyed in the attack that occurred on Tuesday 175km north of Baghdad. The soldiers were from the US army’s 4th Infantry Division.