Guard chief says no units from Maine part of surge

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AUGUSTA (AP) – No Maine National Guard forces will be part of the wave of 21,500 troops that President Bush plans to send to Iraq to try to stabilize the country, the Maine Guard’s adjutant general said Thursday.

Maj. Gen. Bill Libby made the announcement with Gov. John Baldacci after Libby spoke earlier in the day with Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum, the National Guard commander. Bush has sought public support for the new deployment, saying it’s needed to stop sectarian violence in Iraq.

Libby said the Maine Guard had its best recruiting since 9-11 in the last four or five months, even though recruits understand the risks of being mobilized. “The bulk of the people I talk to really believe in the mission,” Libby said.

Baldacci, promising the state’s full support for its Guard members, said he favors a national, bipartisan policy on Iraq that engages its neighboring mideastern countries. He said about 85 percent of Maine’s Guard members have been mobilized and deployed to support operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bush’s call for additional troops Wednesday night left Republican and Democratic members of Maine’s congressional delegation unmoved.

“Our experience after nearly four years of involvement in Iraq has clearly shown that there is no military solution,” Sen. Olympia Snowe said in a statement. “Unfortunately what we have heard tonight is reiteration of past efforts when what is required is an aggressive political solution,” Snowe, a Republican, said.

In response to Wednesday night’s presentation by the president, Sen. Susan Collins said she continues to believe that it would be a mistake to send more U.S. troops to Baghdad. Collins added, however, that additional funding for economic and diplomatic programs may make sense. “There is no question that Iraq is in crisis and that a new strategy is needed,” the Republican said.

U.S. Rep Michael Michaud, meanwhile, issued a statement saying “escalation is not a solution.” The Second District congressman said the United States should redeploy troops to the periphery, draw down their numbers, and focus on training the Iraq Security Forces and empowering Iraqis.

“Because this Administration planned so poorly for what would happen after Saddam fell, we are at a point now where more U.S. troops alone won’t bring stability to Iraq,” said Michaud, a Democrat.

“Past surges have not brought lasting stability. Sadly, it appears that everyone except our President understands that success in Iraq requires a political solution, not a military one,” Michaud said.

First District Rep. Tom Allen, a Democrat, also has expressed opposition to a build-up and says the United States should get out of Iraq this year.

In a prime-time speech, Bush said starting a pullout now would topple Iraq’s government and trigger “unimaginable” slaughter, so he’s sending in more than 21,000 additional troops.

A Minnesota National Guard unit, composed of Army Guard soldiers from several states and currently stationed in Iraq, is among Army units affected by the president’s orders.

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