There are still corrupt, lazy, incompetent senior officers in the ranks [of the Afghan National Army], clinging to positions they’ve bought or traded for. Yet for every one of them, I met five young, hungry soldiers eager to take up the fight. Men like Jawad, a brilliant 23-year-old intelligence officer, or Jamaluddin, a sergeant major who had revolutionized his entire battalion from within.
I watched them wake up early every morning to drive unarmored Ford Rangers down some of the most dangerous roads in the world. They unfurl huge Afghan flags and fly them from every truck. I watched them run toward the sound of gunfire, despite often having only a Vietnam-era flak vest or less to protect them. These men are Uzbeks, Hazaras, Tajiks and, increasingly, Pashtuns - former rivals now working together. They are the beginnings of a nation.
"Winning" is a meaningless word in this type of war, but something is happening in the Afghan south that gives me hope. Rather than resignation, America should show resolve - not to maintain a large troop presence or extend timelines, but to be smarter about the way we use our tapering resources to empower those Afghans willing to lead and serve.
Maj. Fernando M. Luján, US Army Special Forces