Liz Cheney joined some fellow Republicans in calling on Michael Steele to resign as chairman of the Republican National Committee over remarks suggesting that the U.S. cannot win the war in Afghanistan.
“It is time for Chairman Steele to step down,” Cheney, daughter of former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and head of a group called Keep America Safe, said yesterday in a statement. She said his comments were “deeply disappointing and wrong.”
Speaking at a Republican fundraising event in Connecticut on July 1, Steele said the conflict in Afghanistan “was a war of Obama’s choosing” and “is not something that the United States has actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in.”
The U.S. will reassess its Afghanistan strategy in December and is trying to train enough Afghan soldiers and police to allow a withdrawal of U.S. troops there beginning in July 2011. President Barack Obama last year authorized the deployment of 30,000 additional troops in an effort to halt a resurgence of the Taliban that has increased U.S. and allied combat deaths to the fastest pace of the nine-year war, the longest in American history.
Conservative commentator Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, yesterday published an open letter to Steele. “I ask you to consider, over this July 4 weekend, doing an act of service for the country you love: Resign as chairman of the Republican Party,” Kristol wrote. “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.”
Some Republican lawmakers, including Senators John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, oppose the troop drawdown slated to begin next July. McCain last week said a timetable leaves “our troops on the ground in some ways confused about what the long-term strategy will be,” and the Taliban insurgents “think we’re going to leave.”
Steele also drew Democratic criticism for his comments. “Michael Steele would do well to remember that we are not in Afghanistan by our own choosing, that we were attacked and that his words have consequences,” Brad Woodhouse, communications director for the Democratic National Committee, said yesterday in a statement.
Steele on July 1 said, referring to Obama, “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 land war in Afghanistan? Because everyone who has tried, over a thousand years of history, has failed. And there are reasons for that.”
Steele clarified his July 1 remarks yesterday by saying, “The stakes are too high for us to accept anything but success in Afghanistan.” In the same statement he said that “for the sake of the security of the free world, our country must give our troops the support necessary to win this war.”
The U.S.-led war in Afghanistan began after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the U.S. by al-Qaeda, which had been given a safe haven by the militant Islamic Taliban that then controlled the country.