WARSAW — Poland will withdraw its 1,700 soldiers from Iraq after their U.N. mandate expires at the end of this year, Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski said Tuesday, giving the first definitive timetable for ending a deployment that is opposed by most Poles.
However, he said, the mission could be extended if the United Nations Security Council voted on a new mandate or if the Iraqi government asked Poland to keep its troops there.
Szmajdzinski said it would take "a few weeks" for all the troops and equipment to return to Poland after the mandate for the multinational force in Iraq expires.
Polish officials previously indicated that their forces would leave after the mandate ended, but Szmajdzinski's remarks were the first to narrow the window for the withdrawal to January.
Poland is the fourth-largest contributor of troops to the U.S.-led coalition. The country commands a multinational force of about 4,700 troops in three provinces in central Iraq.
Seventeen Polish soldiers have died during the mission.
Szmajdzinski said his statement reflected the position of the Cabinet and would need to be confirmed by President Aleksander Kwasniewski.