Before GROM were formed, Polish forces had to work hard to win over their new NATO and the Western allies. New, because until then they had been the arch enemy on the other side of the iron curtain. Here’s how the story began.

In July 1990, half of the Iraqi army was deployed to the southern part of the country and massed near the Kuwait border. Diplomats in Bagdad suspected that Saddam Hussein was preparing simply another power show. While in Iraq, diplomats from the Arab countries disregarded the situation. Saddam Hussain was trying to force the Kuwait to transfer some of the oil profit to Iraq. It had never lead to open conflict before.

At the end of July, the American ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, met Hussein and was assured by him that no war would be declared. Glaspie got back to her country and everybody thought the crises was over. Also, the diplomats in the Polish embassy in Bagdad felt at ease – this was a month before the last Communist ambassador went back to the country, and the person in charge was from then on charge d’affaires. The new ambassador was expected to arrive soon.

A week later, the Iraqi army attacked Kuwait and within a few hours took control of the country. The invasion proved a complete surprise. From that time on, all diplomats and intelligence officers who hadn’t managed to leave Iraq and Kuwait found themselves in the middle of a diplomatic and military crisis. Although the American ambassador in Iraq was assured by Saddam that the war was not on his mind, the CIA didn’t trust him.

In Summer 1990 in Kuwait, not far from the border with Iraq, six CIA, DIA and NSA officers arrived. Their mission was to monitor the movement of the Iraqi army using state-of-the-art equipment. When Saddam Hussein entered Kuwait, the Americans found themselves in a trap. The Iraqis didn’t know about their existence so they used this chance to get to Bagdad and wait for an opportunity to leave the country.

Unfortunately, the American Embassy didn’t have the capacity to do it.

American diplomats were under constant surveillance and weren’t even able to meet the officers. Britain, France and Germany refused to help. Only Poland agreed. Office of State Protection (an intelligence unit that does not exist anymore) in Warsaw decided that the success of the evacuation might help Poland to begin cooperation with Western partners. For Polish politicians, this was the first step for Poland on the way to join NATO.

In the second half of September 1990, the Iraqis did everything to stop the foreigners from leaving the country. Each day, a number of idiotic regulations and new laws concerning exit procedure arose. In a telegram to the President, the HQ in Warsaw revealed their plan to get the American officers out of Bagdad. The representative of Polish intelligence in Bagdad could not believe his ears. It seemed unreal. What if it didn’t work out? How would that influence the lives of all those thousands of Poles living in, and who were perceived as friends to, Iraq? But an order was, of course, an order.