Afghanistan: October 1, 2002


The disagreements between the 82nd Airborne division and Special Forces is escalating. Over the past 60 years, the 82nd has developed a tradition of toughness and direct action. Many Special Forces troops are recruited from the 82nd. But once undergoing the rigorous selection process and two years of tough training, Special Forces troops (especially the NCOs) tend to look at their former 82nd brethren as inexperienced rookies (the young enlisted troopers) or overconfident posers (many of the officers.) Not a very healthy relationship, especially since most of the senior generals in the army have, at one time or another, served in the 82nd or have close friends who have. The rivalry is getting out of hand in Afghanistan, just as it did four decades ago in Vietnam. The carefully developed local relationships built up by the Special Forces teams are being destroyed by raids in which the 82nd Airborne troopers look for weapons or al Qaeda without regard to whether the locals were pro-American or not. The 82nd says this sort of thing is not happening, Special Forces says it does, and they should know better than the paratroopers what is going on. But the paratroopers are more likely to be clueless about local relationships and believe what they want to believe. The raids are based information collected by Special Forces from locals. Once the 82nd is finished, the information dries up quickly. This dispute is likely to go on, as the military is depending on Special Forces to play a vital role in an Iraq operation, doing the same "hearts and minds" work among the Iraqis. At some point, government officials who are not former members of the 82nd are going to start questioning the hostile attitudes of  many army officers against the Special Forces.


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