High-profile Republican activist Grover Norquist recently bucked his party by supporting the Ground Zero mosque and now he’s picked another fight: the war in Afghanistan. He denies that he’s calling for a rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces and just says he’s calling for a “discussion” of it — which basically means he just doesn’t have the testicular fortitude to say that’s his position.
Norquist said that conservatives should take a look at the “vast expenditures of cash, the vast expenditures of other people lives, and the opportunity cost.” He says, “It seems to me that it has been more expensive than not. And it has made America weaker than otherwise.” He also mentioned how President Reagan “didn’t decide to fix Lebanon” but packed up and left after the bombing of the Marine barracks. But don’t get Norquist wrong, he insists. He isn’t calling for doing the same in Afghanistan, even though he’s making the case for it.
He is the Republican equivalent of those Democrats who tried to force President Bush into withdrawing from Iraq before the surge was even given a chance to succeed. Just as the surge is bringing about signs of progress in Afghanistan and 1,400 more Marines are being sent, Norquist wants to turn and run.
At a private meeting on January 19, General Petraeus reacted to the briefing given to him by saying, “We’ve got our teeth in the enemy’s jugular now, and we’re not going to let go.” When Petraeus talks like that, it means something. He is not a man known for using bravado and is measured and cautious in his assessments.
A recent poll shows that the Afghans who live where the surge is most focused are seeing improvements. Sixty-seven percent of those in Helmand province said their security is “good,” up from 14 percent in December 2009, and almost two-thirds say their country is headed in the right direction. The Afghan population remains quite pro-American. A poll in early 2010 found that 68 percent of Afghans view the U.S. military presence positively, almost as many support the surge, and a slight majority express a positive view of the U.S. The Taliban, on the other hand, is viewed by almost 70 percent of Afghans as their number one threat.
The U.S. military and the Afghan government are making progress in trying to replicate the Sons of Iraq. The governor of Kandahar has traveled to areas previously under Taliban control to hold meetings with 350 elders and General Petraeus is setting up “community watch[es] with AK-47s” in 68 districts. One of the largest Pashtun tribes allied with the Afghan government in January, and the largest tribe in the southern part of Helmand province, has done the same. Combat forces are now in the community instead of sheltered in large bases and are developing relationships on the grassroots level. Intercepted communications show the Taliban has low morale and some are defecting.