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Poland Says It Will Boost Forces In Afghanistan

Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich (left) with NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
WARSAW (Reuters) -- NATO member Poland will boost its 1,600-strong contingent in Afghanistan, but has not yet decided how many more troops to send, Defense Minister Bogdan Klich said.

Last month, Klich was quoted as saying Warsaw had shelved plans to increase its contingent in Afghanistan by up to 600 troops, because of the need to scale back spending during the global economic crisis.

"We have asked the president to approve the plan to send additional troops to Afghanistan," Klich told a news conference, adding that they would probably arrive in May.

President Lech Kaczynski, who is commander-in-chief of the Polish armed forces, strongly supports his country's involvement in Afghanistan and is expected to approve Klich's request.

"Training of the Afghan Army and police is a priority right now, so the money for this must be found," Klich said.

Earlier, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer called during a trip to Kabul for 4,000 more soldiers to help secure Afghanistan's presidential election in August.

Klich declined to comment on a report in the Gazeta Wyborcza daily suggesting Poland was set to send an additional 400 troops to Afghanistan, saying that the final figure would be decided after further consultations.

Klich is under pressure from Prime Minister Donald Tusk to find savings in his ministry, Poland's biggest in budgetary terms. He recently announced Warsaw would withdraw troops from peacekeeping forces in Lebanon and the Golan Heights.

At a recent meeting of NATO defense ministers in the Polish city of Krakow, the United States urged its allies to contribute more to security in Afghanistan ahead of the August election.