US Troops in Afghanistan Battle Beard Ban

Clean-shaven troops complain lack of facial hair makes it harder to win Afghan respect
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 19, 2008 3:34 AM CST
Two US Army captains listen to an Afghan villager during a patrol in Khost, Afghanistan, earlier this year.   (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)
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(Newser) – American troops in Afghanistan want to take a razor to the military's long-standing rule banning beards, US News & World Report writes. Beards are a sign of manhood in traditional areas of Afghanistan, and clean-shaven troops grumble that the rule—which the military maintains is essential for hygiene and discipline—makes it harder to gain respect and trust from the locals. 

Special Forces troops are exempt from the ban, but officials say the experience and maturity of those troops make it less likely lax discipline will sprout along with facial hair. Some see a split between junior and senior officers on the issue, with the junior officers—some of whom are growing regulation-busting beards—more likely to embrace unconventional counterinsurgency tactics over strict military procedure.