U.S. Special Operations Forces have had countless close shaves this month – not just with the enemy, but with razors and foamy cream.
After almost a decade of growing long beards as a show of deep respect for Afghanistan’s male-dominated, bearded tribal culture, many of these elite warriors have been ordered by top brass to shave their faces clean.
Some veteran special ops troops fear they face a harder time getting taken seriously by local leaders they depend upon for intel about their bearded enemy, the Taliban.
“Now we look no different than the Brits or Russians before us,” a dewhiskered Green Beret team leader with five Afghanistan tours told the Daily News, referring to two countries whose past wars here ended badly. “Growing a beard dramatically helps us.”
Even former Afghan war commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal “should have grown a beard” to help win over the tribes, argued the Green Beret, who cannot be identified because of his mission.
Long beards, khaki ball caps and Oakley wraparound sunglasses have long been the iconic image of U.S. secret warriors here.
But commanders now want “professional-looking” soldiers in the field – at least those who deal mostly with Afghan troops, not civilians. They note that the ball caps are often adorned with macabre skulls, sending the wrong message to a populace weary of war and death.
Source: James Gordon Meek for NY Daily News.