RNC chairman: Obama pursued Afghanistan war 'trying to be cute'

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele was caught on video at a fundraiser in Connecticut on Thursday raising doubts about the war in Afghanistan.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) pushed out the video, which shows Steele saying that the war is of "Obama's choosing" and that it is nearly impossible to win a land war in the Central Asian country.

ADVERTISEMENT
"Keep in mind again, federal candidates, this was a war of Obama's choosing. This was not something that the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in," he said. "But it was the president who was trying to be cute by half by building a script demonizing Iraq, while saying the battle really should be in Afghanistan. Well, if he is 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?"

Democrats pounced on the statement, saying it was Steele's latest gaffe in a long line of misstatements.

"This clip puts him at odds with about 100 percent of the Republican Party," DNC communications director Brad Woodhouse said.

The RNC said that Steele did not say the troops should not be in Afghanistan, instead that he was calling for a better war strategy. 

“The chairman clearly supports our troops but believes that success of the war effort in Afghanistan requires the ongoing support of the American people," RNC Communications Director Doug Heye said. “The responsibility for building and maintaining that strategy falls squarely on the shoulders of the president. 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 Petraeus hearings were an opportunity – a missed opportunity – to do that. Instead, all we hear from the president is criticism of his predecessor for doing exactly the same thing."

President George W. Bush began the Afghanistan war in 2001 in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, which were coordinated by al Qaeda in the country. In December, President Barack Obama decided to add 30,000 troops to existing forces there, and set a target withdrawal date of July 2011.

Steele's history reference likely is a recounting of the Soviet War in Afghanistan during the 1980s, which was considered a defeat.

But Steele said that war strategy under Obama has been misguided, which is why former commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal openly criticized the administration in a controversial Rolling Stone magazine article that eventually caused him to tender is resignation.

"The McChrystal incident, to me, was very comical," he said. "I think it’s a reflection of the frustration that a lot of our military leaders [have] with this administration and their prosecution of the war in Afghanistan."

VIDEO