Hoyer: Republicans abandoned focus on war in Afghanistan for seven years

An irritated House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Tuesday fired back at Republicans who have charged President Barack Obama with jeopardizing U.S. troops by deliberating over whether to send additional forces to Afghanistan.

Hoyer tore into Republicans — including House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) — for criticizing Obama’s approach to a war Hoyer said Republicans “abandoned.”

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“My Republican colleagues, of course, abandoned their focus on Afghanistan for seven years — seven years — and let it drift, and did not resource it properly, and did not succeed,” a terse Hoyer said at his weekly news conference.

“For the Republicans who essentially diverted the attention of defeating terrorism in [Afghanistan] on the incorrect assertion that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, frankly, [Republicans' charges] don’t move me mightily as you can tell,” Hoyer said in response to a question about how quickly he would like to see Obama decide whether or not to increase the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Hoyer mentioned Boehner by name in pushing back against criticism from the GOP leader and other Republicans. They’ve argued that Obama is leaving troops in Afghanistan under-resourced by taking time to examine a recommendation from Gen. Stanley McChrystal to send tens of thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan.

“Gen. McChrystal’s assessment says that without timely reinforcements our efforts to deny al Qaeda and the Taliban a safe haven in Afghanistan may end in failure,” Boehner said in a statement released on Monday. It followed up on similar statements he made last week.

“It’s time for the Obama administration to give our commander on the ground the resources he needs to better protect our troops and achieve the goals the president outlined in March.”

Hoyer, who acknowledged he was irritated over the comments, said that such criticism amounted to hypocrisy.

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“McChrystal has now made recommendations — in light of the fact that we are now focused on Afghanistan — on what we need,” Hoyer said. “But we have more people than Mr. Boehner and his party put in Afghanistan over the last five or six years. So this business of wringing your hands and saying, ‘You’re not doing what [is needed]’…  We’re doing much more than they did.”

Hoyer added that Obama’s approach to Afghanistan is entirely appropriate.

“The president taking the time to determine whether or not, whatever policies we adopt going forward, can and will succeed, and that we can sustain those policies with the resources necessary to succeed, is, I think, what he ought to be doing,” said Hoyer.

In recent months, Hoyer has become the House Democrats' point man on refuting GOP attacks and has played a leading role in attempting to undue any political traction Republicans are able to gain on a host of issues.

On the heels of Republican claims, voiced most prominently during the GOP response to Obama’s healthcare address to Congress, that Democrats and Republicans were in agreement on “80 percent” of the proposed healthcare reforms, Hoyer immediately challenged Republicans to show him what that 80 percent was.

After a Hoyer-organized series of bipartisan healthcare discussions failed to produce much in the way of agreement on anything, Republicans cut back on talking up how much bipartisan agreement existed in the healthcare debate.


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