BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan — In the next few weeks, a company of U.S. soldiers is scheduled to set up camp in southeastern Afghanistan and report directly to a Polish lieutenant colonel.

A similar swap is in the cards for a Polish company and an American battalion, exchanges that underscore an increased willingness in the U.S. military to selectively mix and match regular infantry units with allies in a combat zone.

“It’s a very good experience, not just for Polish forces, but for American forces, too,” said Polish army Brig. Gen. Marek Tomaszycki, his country’s highest ranking officer in Afghanistan.

As recently as a couple of months ago, the Polish military had no more than a couple of hundred troops operating here, mostly engineers and de-mining specialists. Now there are about 1,200 in Afghanistan, nearly half of them special forces personnel, according to Maj. Wojciech Kaliszczak, spokesman for the Polish task force.

Tomaszycki indicated the Polish push will last about a year and that his government would decide later whether to extend the mission beyond the current mandate. A Polish soldier typically deploys for six months, so the troop increase would likely involve two rotations.

The move was in response to “a request from NATO to increase the number of troops in the eastern theater” of Afghanistan, Tomaszycki said. “So the Polish government decided to [set] the example for the other nations, which are not very eager to give the people.”

NATO’s call for reinforcements came late last year, so Poland’s response was relatively quick, given the country also has about 1,000 troops in Iraq.

“Everyone needs more troops,” Tomaszycki said.

The American unit that will join the Polish battalion is part of the U.S. Army’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, headquartered at Forward Operating Base Salerno in Paktia province.

The company would be based with Polish troops at a smaller base in the neighboring province of Paktika, and fall under the direct command of Polish army Lt. Col. Adam Strek.

Strek actually will operate out of larger installation called Sharona, which will serve as the primary home for his battle group.

The Polish company linking up with the Americans will operate from yet another base, in Ghazni Province.

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