One of the many things that hurt morale among U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the half-hearted efforts of troops sent by other NATO nations hurts the worst. The multi-national force is called ISAF (International Security Assistance Force), but U.S. troops insist ISAF really stands for “I See Americans Fighting”.
While British (9,500 troops), Canadian (2,900) and Australian (1,500) forces fight hard, most other nations avoid the enemy. Moreover, the British, Canadian and Australian contingents are all planning to leave in the next few years. Even the United States has pledged to “begin reducing” it’s force (100,000 troops) in four years. But the sad truth is that Afghanistan is a mess, mainly because of the heroin (90 percent of the world’s supply comes from Afghanistan), a curse that has created millions of addicts in Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, as well as many more in Europe, North America, East Asia and the Middle East. Everyone expects that, in the end, the U.S. will stick around and take care of things. U.S. troops in Afghanistan see this in action, as other NATO troops are ordered to avoid fighting, and let the Americans take care of any emergencies.
The NATO troops themselves, for the most part, want to fight. But participation in ISAF has become a political issue inside most nations that are contributing, and the usual way to settle that domestic dispute is to put restrictions on the troops in Afghanistan. Militarily, it’s a bad decision, but politically, it’s a more tolerable one. So most NATO troops pretend to participate, secure in the knowledge of what ISAF really stands for.