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Guard Unit Is Resigned to Prolonged Duty in Iraq

A Minnesota National Guard unit that has just learned it will spend an additional four months in Iraq includes a soldier who got to ask President Bush about his plan for a "surge" in troops Monday. He says he's not satisfied with the answer.

Charlie Company of the 2nd Battalion, 136th Infantry has 72 Minnesotans who just learned that they are going to be in Iraq for an additional four months. They were getting ready to leave in March.

Charlie Company is responsible for part of the security at a vast supply base called Anaconda 50 miles north of Baghdad.

Tuesday, one of the extended Minnesotans got to ask a question when NPR's Juan Williams interviewed President Bush. Spec. Ryan Schmidt asked if the president had a plan if his troop surge didn't work. Here's what the president said:

"Well, I would say to Ryan, I put it in place on the advice of a lot of smart people, particularly the military people who think it will work, and let us go into this aspect of the Iraqi strategy feeling it will work. But I will also assure Ryan that we're constantly adjusting to conditions on the ground."

We asked Spec. Schmidt if he was satisfied with the president's answer.

"No, it did not answer my question," he said. "I would have liked to know more so that there will be a plan if this does not work. For some of us that are over here, particularly me, my unit, we all feel, what's the point of us being extended if your initial plan to send more troops over here does not work? What are you going to do, Mr. President?"

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

John McChesney
Since 1979 senior correspondent John McChesney has been with NPR, where he has served as national editor (responsible for domestic news) and senior foreign editor. Over the course of his career with NPR, McChesney covered a variety of beats and traveled extensively throughout Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and Asia. His reports can be heard on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, and newscasts.