I Sunbathe at FOBs

ISAF, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, which has become the bane of many an American’s existence, also has become the target of American military humor. As reported by U.S. News and World Report the “ISAF” acronym has taken on new meanings: “I Sunbathe at FOBs” (because I have a lot of time on my hands at these safe and uneventful forward operating bases), “I Saw Americans Fight” (because ISAF forces don’t or won’t), and “I S- – – at Fighting” (which is why the Americans have to do most of it). 

Can you feel the love? 

The underlying bitterness has existed for some time. There are myriad issues in play. The very mention of NATO’s “commitment” in Afghanistan caused noticeable stress in the voice of Army Gen. John Craddock, supreme allied commander, Europe, and one of two NATO strategic commanders, when interviewed by National Public Radio in the spring. The U.S. has been pushing for more NATO involvement, and not just the token European brigadier. Early on, it was planned the provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs) would move from U.S. to ISAF control, though the preponderance of the manpower remains American and U.S. units remain in the more challenging areas. Admittedly, national or political requirements back at each nation’s mother ship keep their forces’ actions limited in scope, like Germany, for example. (Goes back to that whole Third Reich/take over the world/losing the war thing.) The Japanese and their Peace Constitution are not in Afghanistan. 

The relationship of the U.S. with its NATO brothers and sisters regarding Afghanistan is complex and contradictory. Diplomats and academics (and NATO wags) speak glowingly of NATO’s unwavering dedication to Afghanistan. U.S. politicos and warfighters, be they commanders or the Jay Leno’s of Paktika, convey tremendous angst over NATO’s consistent indifference to the region.

At least they can write home, “I Saw Americans Fight (while sunbathing).”

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