As draft ends, Polish army faces struggle to modernize

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As part of the wholesale effort to modernize its military, the Polish government has officially brought a close to conscription, making last week's class of drafted recruits the final one after 90 years of compulsory military service on this soil, which felt the tremors of some of the worst the last century's wars could offer.

The decision has come at a difficult time. Russia's incursion into Georgian territory in August awakened real fears, catching policy makers and citizens off guard. Poland's attempt to transform its military into a smaller, modern integrated force this fall is occurring in a season of turmoil, as its soldiers have left Iraq and are expanding their presence in Afghanistan.

Analysts say there are not enough funds and not enough men without the conscripts, while Poland is trying, in essence, to do it all at the same time. Supporters of the decision called it an overdue step toward matching the quality of the military forces of the country's chief NATO allies in Western Europe and across the Atlantic. Critics called it a hasty and expensive move during an economic crisis, more a product of politics than of sound planning, and a lower priority than badly needed new equipment.

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