No Apology From Steele for Incendiary Afghanistan Prognosis

Jul 2, 2010 2:46pm

ABC's Z. Byron Wolf reports:

There is no apologizing or backing down from Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele today after his suggestion at a Connecticut fundraiser that history shows the war in Afghanistan is not winnable and that President Obama, not the President in Congress in 2001, started the war in Afghanistan.

In a statement released by his office, Steele does seek to clarify his comments a bit, declaring that “America must win the war on terror.”

Steele says he supported adding 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan when President Obama announced that surge at West Point in late 2009, but Steele argues that it is President Obama’s strategy alone.

At the fundraiser Steele said that a thousand years of history should have shown the U.S. not to commit to a land war in Afghanistan. In the statement, that becomes: "As we have learned throughout history, winning a war in Afghanistan is a difficult task." He also says that "it is a necessary one."

What remains to be seen is if his statement, without any admission of error, can quiet renewed calls for his resignation among the Republican intelligentsia.

"There are, of course, those who think we should pull out of Afghanistan,
and they’re certainly entitled to make their case. But one of them
shouldn't be the chairman of the Republican party," said Weekly Standard Editor William Kristol in an open letter to Steele this afternoon.

-Z. Byron Wolf

The full statement from Steele:

“As we enter the Fourth of July weekend, I proudly remember standing with Maryland National Guardsmen on their way to the Middle East and later stood with the mothers of soldiers lost at war. There is no question that America must win the war on terror.

“During the 2008 Presidential campaign, Barack Obama made clear his belief that we should not fight in Iraq, but instead concentrate on Afghanistan. Now, as President, he has indeed shifted his focus to this region. That means this is his strategy. And, for the sake of the security of the free world, our country must give our troops the support necessary to win this war.

“As we have learned throughout history, winning a war in Afghanistan is a difficult task. We must also remember that after the tragedy of September 11, 2001, it is also a necessary one. That is why I supported the decision to increase our troop force and, like the entire United States Senate, I support General Petraeus’ confirmation. The stakes are too high for us to accept anything but success in Afghanistan.”

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