Poland announced in late June that it will deploy 60 special operations forces troops to Iraq. In addition to the SOF contingent the Poles will also deploy four F-16s and associated personnel to Kuwait. The personnel based in Kuwait will likely number about 200. The aircraft’s mission will be flying reconnaissance missions over Iraq and Syria. The SOF contingent is likely to come from the Polish GROM – but this is yet to be confirmed.

The GROM, established in August 1990, is one of several Polish special operations forces units. Its primary mission is counterterrorism. The acronym GROM is short for Grupa Reagonwania Operacyjno-Manewrowego. Or in English – Group (for) Operational Maneuvering Response. The word ‘grom’ also means ‘thunder’ in Polish. The early recruits for the GROM came from a number of specialized Polish military and police units.

Poland’s SOF has a history of working with the United States in recent years in conflicts and operations such as Operation Uphold Democracy (Haiti 1994), Desert Storm (Iraq 1991), the Balkans (1990s), Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).

In 2003 the Polish GROM and other Polish SOF units were fighting in southern and central Iraq. In 2004 the GROM had a small compound on Baghdad International Airport (BIAP) not far from the U.S. Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force (CJSOTF-AP). At the time its primary mission was to target high value targets of the former Iraqi regime. In addition, Polish maritime SOF units worked with the U.S. Navy SEALs in southern Iraq. Overall Polish troop strength in Iraq in 2005 surpassed 2,500 when counting SOF and conventional forces.

In Afghanistan, the Poles were also very active – with conventional and SOF forces deployed for many years. The GROM were first reported to be present in Afghanistan in the spring of 2002 at Bagram Air Field. Once ISAF expanded its role in Afghanistan, the Poles assumed responsibility for security in Ghazni province – providing combat units, military and police advisory units, and the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT). The Polish GROM and other Polish SOF units worked in Ghazni as well as other areas of Afghanistan. Currently (mid-2016), the majority of the Polish units are working in eastern Afghanistan alongside U.S. forces as part of Train Advise and Assist Command – East (TAAC East) based in Jalalabad and FOB Gamberi.

Participation of other nations like Poland in the counter-ISIS fight provides the United States with additional resources as well as reinforcing the U.S. position that ISIS poses a global threat to all nations. For Poland, the deployment of SOF and air units highlights their role as a U.S. ally and provides an opportunity to enhance interoperability with U.S. SOF and air units.

(image by SSG Marcus Butler, USASOC, Sep 2014)