Minnesota Democrats in Congress react cautiously to Obama plan

President Obama speaks to cadets during an address Tuesday at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York.
REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
President Obama speaks to cadets during an address Tuesday at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Democrats in Minnesota’s congressional delegation reacted tonight with cautious optimism to President Obama’s order to send another 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. Some lawmakers said they agreed with parts of the plan but remained skeptical about others.

In a prime-time speech, Obama said the additional troops will go to Afghanistan beginning early next year in an effort to finally win a war begun eight years ago as a response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“Afghanistan is not lost, but for several years it has moved backwards,” Obama said, noting momentum by the Taliban, al Qaeda safe havens along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and continuing difficulty in securing the country. “In short: The status quo is not sustainable.”

Obama said he plans to begin withdrawing combat troops as early as summer 2011, about 18 months after the surge arrives.

Rep Tim Walz, a Democrat, called the speech “the first page in a new chapter on Afghanistan” but questioned how the administration would pay fund the troop increase.

Rep. Keith Ellison, a Democrat who has been opposed to a troop increase in the country until corruption in the Afghan government is cleaned up, said he remains “uncomfortable with the troop increase” but was encouraged by the president’s strict timeline and focus on strengthening the country’s civil society.

Parts of the plan even drew some support from at least one Minnesota Republican, with Rep. Michele Bachmann saying she was “pleased that the president has finally decided to follow the recommendation of our commanding officer in Afghanistan and deploy more troops to the country.”

Still, deep divisions remain. For example, Bachmann and GOP Rep. John Kline blasted the strict withdrawal timeline that Ellison and Rep. Jim Oberstar, a Democrat, praised.

The case for Obama’s plan will be made again repeatedly in the coming days.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are scheduled to testify in a pair of hearings on the Afghanistan plan Wednesday, with a third hearing planned for Thursday.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said she will be focused on those hearings and future briefings to gauge “how this strategy will prevent Afghanistan from serving as a base for terrorism, the specific resources that will be necessary to carry out this mission, and the additional costs that it will require.”

She added: “Our troops deserve nothing less.”

Derek Wallbank is MinnPost’s Washington, D.C., correspondent. He can be reached at dwallbank[at]minnpost[dot]com.

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Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 12/01/2009 - 10:59 pm.

    Only two options to choose from:
    worse and less worse.

    It no doubt was the right decision, both
    liberals and conservatives were offended equally.

  2. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 12/02/2009 - 08:55 am.

    The Bush surge seemed to work in Iraq.

    Maybe the Obama surge will work in Afghanistan.

    If Bush would have given this speech “the left” would be “outraged.”

    It is fun to see the media “fawn” and “spin” for Obama.

  3. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 12/02/2009 - 11:19 am.

    Well I quess it’s ‘Minnesota Nice’ again folks…when “cautious” is the word among our state representatives?

    Klobucher is cautious indeed…taking a wait-and-see attitude which is beginning to sound as meaningless as Bachman’s cage rattling rhetoric (Why not leave her out of the media crawl more often? She’s not worth it…feed her a banana and give her a rest, until she’s voted out of office,eh?)

    The only policy types that got their way this time is McChrystal and his gang,Cheney, and Et Tu, Hillary? Obama you got duped, pressured from what unexpected sources I wonder.

    Obama you were dealt a lousy hand by the Bush/Cheney crowd and now have too few hands in too many critical places, but Abe Lincoln’s “Right makes might” spin somewhow doesn’t improve the picture. And granted, if you had been more ambi-dextrous; as many hands as that Persian god, Kali, maybe you could better control the mess which you’ve been handed.

    Our military walk down backroads and through villages with broad gaps between soldier and his buddy; like sitting ducks on a land where enemy and friend all look alike. The camera picks up a few soldiers talking to villagers…young sargents and a bevy of 19,20 year olds trying to effect some semblance of authority to establish they are in charge, to the village elders…so they shout out words the villagers don’t understand in rising decibels giving command performance like talking to boot camp recruits at Camp Le Jeune.

    Down the road the camera picks up another group of Marines passing out candy and they talk with the villagers with some degree of respect…and everybody looks a little tense. This isn’t fun for anyone and it’s not a back lot and the military are not teaching soccer to the crowd.

    Whatever the picture, we are sending our young men and women into a landscape few understand or even want to anymore. Can you blame them?

    Bring them home please…”Our security” we are supposedly protecting in this mad scenario is not “Amerika”…it’s those god d…m airbases we have permanently established over the Mid-east; the globe already. eh!

    Bring them home please…how are we going to train an Afghan to protect himself if we don’t even understand or respect their cultural or religious ideologies? And what’s the recognizable image to tell us the differance between an Afghan who loves our occupation, an Afghan who hates our presence; a Talibin or an Al Qaeda sympathizer?

    We will train them to protect themselves, but who will join our training camps? Some will do anything to get a free gun. Happens there. Happens here.

    Maintaining our military presence in permanent bases all over the globe makes enemies more often than friends.

    Want a military base run by China or India or North Korea camped permanently out you back door and some guy speaking Chinese telling you what to do? Do you stare blankly or nod and hope it’s the right response so you can go back to your family and repair the damages from the last drone attack?

    “Who loves ya baby?”…get the picture?

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