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Poland to lead NATO's high readiness task force

By Ed Adamczyk
Poland to lead NATO's high readiness task force
Poland will take charge of NATO's Very High Readiness Joint Task Force in 2020, NATO announced on Monday. The task force of 6,000 puts soldiers on constant standby for quick deployment. Photo courtesy of Polish Ministry of National Defense

Dec. 30 (UPI) -- Poland's army will be the leader of NATO's Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, the military bloc announced on Monday.

The task force, created in 2004 in response to Russian annexation of Crimea and also known as the Spearhead Force, has thousands of troops on constant standby and ready to deploy. A NATO statement said that 3,000 of the 6,000 soldiers serving in the task force will be from the Polish army.

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Leadership revolves between NATO member states every year; Poland will have the responsibility beginning Jan. 1, replacing Germany.

The core of the force centers on Poland's 21st Podhales Rifles Brigade, and includes a mechanized, or tank, division, as well as a transport aviation wing, military police, logistics experts and counter-chemical and biological specialists.

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Troops from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Latvia, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Slovakia, Turkey and Britain will also serve in the task force.

"The Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, our Spearhead Force, is a substantial contribution to our collective defense and a strong display of Poland's capabilities," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement. This force is available to move immediately to defend any ally against any threat. At a time of unprecedented security challenges, it is more important than ever."

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Earlier in December, Turkey said it would not support NATO defense plans for the Baltic States, including Poland, if NATO allies did not recognize Kurdistan's YPG militia, which Turkey is fighting in Syria, as terrorists. A compromise was reached at the NATO summit in London.

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Turkey will lead the NATO task force in 2021.

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