(CNN) - As John McCain’s apparent gaffe on a familiar topic — the surge - continued to grab headlines, his advisors told reporters that the comment was no flub.
Critics contend that the presumptive Republican nominee had made an error when he argued that “because of the surge we were able to go out and protect [a major Sunni] sheik and others. And it began the Anbar awakening. I mean, that's just a matter of history."
Listen: McCain advisors say his Anbar comment was not a gaffe
In a conference call Wednesday, McCain foreign policy advisor Randy Scheunemann told reporters that the Arizona senator had not misspoken — that he had intended to tell Katie Couric that the troop surge, which began in 2007, had enabled the success of the “Anbar awakening” of major Sunni sheikhs against Al Qaeda, which began in 2006.
“There is no doubt whatsoever that had there been no surge, the awakening would have been defeated,” said Scheunemann. The situation in late 2006 in Anbar was bleak, he said and a leaked Marine Corps intelligence report that November found that the U.S. military was no longer capable of defeating insurgents in Western Iraq, or confronting the rising popularity of Al Qaeda — largely because Sunnis thought they couldn’t depend on them to stay in the country until it was stable.
“That's in November 2006. The surge was announced in January. Troops started flowing to Iraq in February and March [of 2007],” said Scheunemann. “Some of the first forces were moved into Anbar. They enabled Ramadi to be first cleared and then held. And that enabled the awakening to not only survive Ramadi but spread throughout Anbar and ultimately Iraq. It would not have happened without the surge, and Sen. McCain has been very very clear about that.”