"Earlier this year, under a half-moon in eastern Afghanistan, I found myself on a C-130 transport plane with a group of American Special Operations commandos — maybe Navy SEALs, maybe Army Rangers. The operators, as they like to call themselves, had come for a mission, carried it out and were hitching a ride back to their base. They had long hair and long beards, and their eyes were very hard. They didn’t smile and they didn’t talk, not even to one another. When the plane landed, they disappeared.
In the 11 years since 9/11, Special Operations commandos like SEALs and Rangers have done the dirty work of America’s wars. By day, ordinary soldiers may be trying to win over the locals with water projects and new schools, but at night the SEALs and Rangers are swooping into villages and killing and dragging away guerrilla leaders. In Afghanistan, Special Operations teams carry out dozens of these missions every night: Kill and capture, kill and capture, kill and capture. It makes the eyes very hard."