Minn. delegation want more details before deciding on Afghanistanby Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — One senior Obama adviser is the president to send as many as 40,000 more troops to the region and a few members of Minnesota's Congressional delegation have strong opinions about what President Obama should do, but most of the state's representatives in Washington haven't made a firm decision on what the next step should be.
Republican Representatives John Kline and Michele Bachmann say Obama should listen to Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan. McChrystal is urging President Obama to send an additional 40,000 troops to the country.
Kline, who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, said delaying the decision only puts troops already in Afghanistan in harm's way.
"Gen. McChrystal has made his preferences clear, and the president ought to be moving to implement that because there is so much at stake," Kline said. "I don't want to send our sons and daughters, in my case it's literally my son, back to Afghanistan in an effort that can't win, and Gen. MacChrystal said we're in trouble of losing this thing within the year."
Kline's son is an Army helicopter pilot who is scheduled to go back to Afghanistan next year. Kline said the additional troops will not only stabilize Afghanistan but also target any potential unrest in neighboring Pakistan. DFL Congressman Keith Ellison disagrees and said sending more troops is a mistake.
"This is not what is going to bring us a good resolution," Ellison said. "What is going to bring us a good resolution is helping build and strengthen institutions, training Afghans to provide security for these institutions and then getting out of their country.
"History is trying to tell us that whether you're the Brits or the Soviets or anybody else, this place is known as the graveyard of empires for a reason," he said.
Six of the other seven members of the delegation haven't made a firm decision on whether more troops are needed.
DFL Congresswoman Betty McCollum said she doesn't support sending 40,000 troops to the region but could support a smaller troop increase if certain conditions are met. For example, McCollum said she wants to see a stronger police force and a stabilized central government in Afghanistan.
DFL Congressman Jim Oberstar said he's worried Americans are seen as an occupying force in the country. He's waiting for several questions to be answered before he makes a decision.
"How much is it going to cost?" Oberstar said. "How are we going to pay for it? Is there an international consensus for a long-term presence in Afghanistan? How long will we have troops in Afghanistan and how many?"
Republican Erik Paulsen is waiting to make a decision until he sees President Obama's plan and hears from Gen. McChrystal. Paulsen said he's a freshman lawmaker who wants more information.
"I think the president has put together a very thoughtful team around himself with Gen. McChrystal, Gen. Petraeus and Secretary Gates," Paulsen said. "I think there's a broad consensus though that Congress should hear from Gen. McChrystal. It would bring additional clarity and perspective to the debate."
DFL Congressman Tim Walz is also waiting for more information before he makes a decision. DFL Congressman Collin Peterson could not be reached for comment.
Minnesota's two senators said they too are waiting to make a decision on a troop increase. DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar said she wants to see what Obama decides.
"I want to look at all of the evidence and what the options are and that's what's happening right now," Klobuchar said. "When the president and the military come together with a plan, I will evaluate it then."
DFL Sen. Al Franken said he's also waiting to see Obama's plan, but he said he's not happy that critics are urging Obama to speed up his decision. He said he's pleased to see Obama considering all options.
"We've put ourselves in a bit of a no-win situation here," Franken said. "There's no good choice here and that's why I think the president is taking his time and doing this in the proper way."
Like Obama, Franken said during last year's campaign that more troops were needed in Afghanistan. Franken said Obama has already increased troop levels there, and the next step is to determine the strategy from here. It isn't clear when President Obama will announce his decision.
- Morning Edition, 10/30/2009, 6:20 a.m.