Speaking to reporters at the foreign ministry on Wednesday, Rau noted the decision to deploy troops to Afghanistan had been made following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in the United States.
'We persevered in Afghanistan to the very end'
"Poland was a participant in this allied operation," Rau said, adding: "We persevered in Afghanistan to the very end of our mission as a loyal and valuable ally."
He emphasised that when the decision was made to withdraw, "it led to the evacuation, which has been successful and casualty-free."
Rau thanked Polish diplomats involved in the airlift, saying the operation brought 1,232 people out of the Central Asian country.
In total, 52 military flights and 15 civilian flights were made for the purpose, he told the news conference.
"We conducted this rescue mission using our own, often improvised methods, our own staff and equipment, and with the protection of our own military, intelligence and diplomatic forces, both in Kabul and Afghanistan's neighbours," Rau also said.
Dangers 'not just imagined': diplomat
Among those overseeing the evacuation of Polish staff and local Afghan associates was Maciej Lang, Poland's ambassador to Romania.
He told reporters that each evacuee first had to be located among the thousands who thronged outside Kabul airport. Polish officials "physically pulled" these people into a provisional camp set up inside the airport, Lang said.
After that, they were airlifted by military planes to Uzbekistan, and then by jets operated by Polish flagship carrier LOT to Warsaw, Lang added.
The dangers of the operation were "not just imagined," Lang also said.
The last group of evacuees left an hour before the terrorist attacks, which happened on the night of August 25, he pointed out.
Maciej Lang. Photo: PAP/Albert Zawada
'Spectacular success' for Poland
Looking back at the two-decade mission in Afghanistan, Rau said Poland's role had been "a spectacular success for Polish foreign and security policy."
He added that Poland "has proved itself a credible, trustworthy partner in the North-Atlantic Alliance."
For that, Poland is indebted to its soldiers, Rau also said, paying tribute to the 44 members of the Polish contingent—43 troops and a medical rescue worker—who "paid the highest price, the price of their lives."
The US-led military mission in Afghanistan officially ended on August 31.
Source: IAR, PAP, gov.pl