The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

December 7, 2009

Walz takes tough questions on war in Afghanistan

Town hall meeting on surge remains civil

NORTH MANKATO — When a nation goes to war, or sends soldiers to a foreign country to fight or build roads or bolster the peace efforts of the host government, there are always good intentions.

There is also a grim, fatal reality. And as the nation debates President Barack Obama’s plan to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, Congressman Tim Walz says that grim reality haunts him at night.

“When this is carried out, we will have sons and daughters die,” he told a town hall gathering Monday evening at South Central College. “This is something I lose sleep over.”

To help him make a decision on whether or not to support the president’s plan — and to gather Minnesota ideas on the topic to bring back to Washington — Walz has been holding town hall meetings, an approach that has become common since the days of national health care debates.

“We should always be having these discussions, we should always be questioning what direction we’re going,” he said.

The crowd at South Central College wasn’t nearly as anti-Walz and anti-government as the gathering at Mankato East High School a few months ago. In that meeting Walz was met with hecklers, and the general vibe in the room seemed to be against health care reform.

Before getting to the heart of the meeting Monday — questions from the audience — Walz conducted a quick geography lesson on Afghanistan and tried to illustrate why the situation there required some type of action.

Walz displayed maps of the country — including one that showed the hundreds of independent clans operating within the country — and explained how many Afghans are loyal to clan first and country second. And many don’t recognize the political border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

He said that, based on evidence he’s seen, not doing anything in Afghanistan could jeopardize the security of the United States and add to the instability of a region where several countries possess nuclear weapons.

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