(NSI News Source Info) WARSAW - April 28, 2009: Poland is to dispatch 400 more soldiers to Afghanistan by the end of this month amid the worsening security situation in the war-ravaged country, German news reports said here Tuesday. Poland will bolster its 1,600-strong contingent in Afghanistan with 400 more troops to help improve security in the leadup to an August election there, Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on Tuesday. NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said recently the NATO-led peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan will need some 4,000 extra soldiers to secure Afghanistan's presidential poll. "We have taken today a decision to formally ask the president to increase our contingent by 400 soldiers," Tusk told a news conference. "It is related to the elections in Afghanistan and we are all aware the situation there will not be any easier over the weeks to come. Sending more troops is justified from the point of view of our own forces' security there," Tusk added. Poland, NATO's largest ex-communist member, had previously said it would not increase its forces in Afghanistan as it looks to make budget savings because of a sharp economic slowdown. Poland's Defense Ministry recently agreed to cut spending plans this year by 2 billion zlotys ($601.5 million), but Tusk said it could afford the 35.1 million zlotys needed for the troop reinforcements. Polish President Lech Kaczynski, who as commander-in-chief must approve the additional deployments, has spoken in favor of increasing Poland's engagement in Afghanistan and is widely expected to approve Tusk's request. Warsaw will increase its overall troop size in Afghanistan to 2,000 by the end of April, said Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk following his meeting with his British counterpart Gordon Brown in the Polish capital. The situation ahead of the Afghan presidential elections, scheduled for August, requires "utmost efforts," added Tusk. There are currently 1.600 Polish troops deployed in Afghanistan fighting a rejuvenated Taliban and al-Qaeda insurgency. Polish soldiers have faced increased attacks in recent times, Polish military officials have been quoted saying. The US has reportedly pressed Poland to send additional soldiers to Afghanistan. Polish troops have been based mostly in the Afghan province of Ghasni since last fall as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) which has currently deployed around 55,000 troops. ISAF is by far NATO's largest mission, and is seen as crucial to the security and long-term credibility of the controversial western military alliance. The ISAF mission was mandated by the United Nations in December 2001, in the wake of the overthrow of the Taliban. The largest troop contingents come from the US with 23,220 followed by Britain with 8,910 and Germany with 3,500. American President Barack Obama announced he would boost the number of US soldiers in Afghanistan by around 17,000. However, he has also called on European allies to make a similar commitment.
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