More influential conservatives and Republicans have publicly condemned comments by Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele suggesting that the war in Afghanistan is unwinnable.
Dan Senor, the chief spokesman for the Bush administration in Iraq, told the Huffington Post that Steele’s remarks were “utterly irresponsible.”
“It’s completely inconsistent with this latest statement [on Afghanistan],” Senor said, referring to Steele’s recent defense of military action in the region when he called Afghanistan a war “we have to win.”
In fact, Steele has long been a supporter of ongoing American involvement in Afghanistan.
“If the president remains committed to this crucial fight,” Steele said in December, “Republicans and the American people will stand with him.”
In response to criticism for his latest comments, Steele released this statement Friday afternoon:
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.
But despite Steele’s effort to evade his most recent statements on Afghanistan, conservatives continue to condemn his remarks. (READ LIZ CHENEY CALL FOR HIS RESIGNATION)
Erick Erickson, editor of the conservative blog Red State, said Steele “must resign.”
“The war in Afghanistan is not a war of Barack Obama’s choosing. It is a war of Al Qaeda and the Taliban’s choosing. We responded,” he wrote. “Michael Steele must resign. He has lost all moral authority to lead the GOP.”
Former Bush adviser Christian Whiton, who served in the State Department from 2003-2009, called for an end to Steele’s tenure with the RNC as well.
“Instead of simply riding favorable winds, Steele has repeatedly made himself a negative issue and turned the RNC from an asset for Republicans seeking office into a liability,” Whiton wrote on FoxNews.com. “At a time when national Republicans have no natural communications platform, finding a good RNC chairman is key. Michael Steele can do the GOP a great service by triggering a search for one with his own resignation.”
From a policy perspective, James Carafano, a foreign policy analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation, called Steele’s comments “flat wrong.”
“Labeling this as some kind of optional war or framing it in a way that tries to shift partisan responsibility to one side or another, that’s wrong,” he said. “That’s just flat wrong.”
Carafano added that a person in Steele’s position should know better about the consequences of his public statements.
“If you’re on the record and you’re a leader, you have a public responsibility to be intelligent about what you’re saying. When you have to send out press releases that explain what you meant, that’s not leadership.”
More leading conservatives and Republicans are expected to make statements about Steele’s remarks, and it is yet to be seen if Steele will stay on as RNC Chairman.