I predict a significant exodus from SOF in 2022. The reason being that our 9/11 patriots will be hitting retirement.

Seeing such a large-scale attack on the American people at an impressionable age seemed to have been the driving factor in many servicemembers’ first steps into service.

On that horrific day, out of the fires and ashes emerged a new generation of Americans ready and prepared to stand and defend their country and their fellow Americans, no matter the price.

The wars are over now. Back-to-back deployments have beaten them down. Their minds and bodies are broken. Now we talk about “22  day,” a handy soundbite to summarize the plague of veteran suicide. I’m surprised it’s not higher, to be honest.

There are approximately 2,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

A new report requested by Congress calls for the Biden administration to extend the May deadline for the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The Afghanistan Study Group, a bipartisan congressionally-mandated panel under the United States Institute of Peace, recommended keeping U.S. troops in the war-torn country “in order to give the peace process sufficient time to produce an acceptable result.”

In case they haven’t noticed, the Taliban have taken nearly all of Afghanistan.

NATO joined the international security effort in Afghanistan in 2003 and currently has more than 7,000 troops in the country. The security operation by NATO in Afghanistan was launched after the Alliance for the first time activated its mutual defense clause — known as Article 5 — in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

SOF Special Operations SF
A joint special forces team move together out of a U.S. Air Force CV-22 Osprey Feb. 26, 2018, at Melrose Training Range, New Mexico. At Emerald Warrior, the largest joint and combined special operations exercise, U.S. Special Operations Command forces train to respond to various threats across the spectrum of conflict. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Clayton Cupit)

Wars Cost a Ton of Money

According to a Defense Department report, the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria have cost U.S. taxpayers more than $1.57 trillion since Sept. 11, 2001. According to the Pentagon, the war in Afghanistan, which has dragged on to become America’s longest conflict, began 19 years ago and has cost U.S. taxpayers $193 billion.

We hit our apex in Afghanistan in 2011. Bin Laden was found hiding in neighboring Pakistan and was killed in a U.S. special operations raid. There were about 100,000 troops in Afghanistan then.

At that time, I remember being on Camp Brown in Kandahar. The megabase, which was complete with an outdoor store and TGI Friday’s, had a traffic jam. I was the paying agent for the team and went back monthly to clear my books.

As an SF guy during that time, I can say it was a lot of fun. My team was way up in the mountains doing Village Stability Operations (VSO) at 9,000 feet: the U.S. “bottom-up” stability efforts where SOF teams conduct VSO in strategically important rural areas, in villages, and village clusters in order to undermine insurgent influence and control.

In June 2011, Obama said that we had been meeting our objectives in Afghanistan and announced his withdrawal plan: Bring home 10,000 troops by the end of 2011, and continue at a steady pace until handing over security responsibilities to the Afghans by 2014.

Since that time, we have only stepped back further and further the number of troops in the hope that the Afghan government could provide for its own security.

Where Did Everyone Go? The mass exodus of Special Operators

Read Next: Where Did Everyone Go? The mass exodus of Special Operators

In 2015 we would get in gunfights as soon as we left the compound: the way the Taliban fought had changed drastically and the Taliban fighters were better and would fight to the death. In contrast, in 2011 we would literally have to chase the Taliban down.

Nowadays, teams are fighting much less, if at all. If you ask for training guidance, you get a blank look and then an email with some generic statement from the Group commander with minimal actual guidance. Just train to fight and win is a better way of looking at it.

Contract jobs overseas are few and far between compared to what they were during the wars’ height, and they certainly don’t pay what they should.

All of these factors will play out as a whole generation of 9/11 special operations patriots approaches retirement.