Politics

RNC Chairman Michael Steele suggests Afghan war unwinnable, prompting calls for him to resign

In a speech caught on tape at a Connecticut fundraiser Thursday, National Republican Committee Chairman Michael Steele blamed the war in Afghanistan on President Obama and suggested it could not be won, leading to calls for his resignation.

“This was a war of Obama’s choosing,” Steele said of the war in Afghanistan, which just concluded its deadliest month since the 2001 invasion. “This is not something the United States has actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in.”

Steele seemed to blame the president for decisions that were made before he took office, and called on Obama to seek other means to tackle the problems facing the war-torn country.

“Well, if he’s such a student of history, has he not understood that, you know, that’s the one thing you don’t do is engage in a land war in Afghanistan, alright, because everyone who’s tried over a thousand years of history has failed,” he said.  “And there are reasons for that. There are other ways to engage in Afghanistan.”

Steele’s comments do not line up with those of other Republicans who have spoken out in favor of continuing the war effort. In television interviews last week, a number of ranking Republicans blasted Obama’s announcement of an Afghanistan withdrawal date. Arizona Sen. John McCain, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss all spoke out against the president’s call for a timetable on the war.

In reaction to Steele’s comments, Weekly Standard editor William Kristol, a stalwart supporter of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, called on Steele to resign immediately.

“Needless to say, the war in Afghanistan was not ‘a war of Obama’s choosing.’ It has been prosecuted by the United States under Presidents Bush and Obama. Republicans have consistently supported the effort,” he wrote on the magazine’s blog Friday afternoon. “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.”

In a statement released Friday, RNC spokesman Doug Heye defended Steele’s remarks.

“The responsibility for building and maintaining that strategy falls squarely on the shoulders of the President,” said Heye. “Like so many Americans, Chairman Steele wants to hear an explanation from President Obama on what his strategy is for winning the war in Afghanistan.”

The United States invaded Afghanistan under the leadership of former President George W. Bush after the attacks of September 11, 2001. President Obama tripled the number of troops in the country since taking office, and says the United States will begin to withdraw by July 2011.