November 1, 2009:
The commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan (Stanley McChrystal, who has a Special Forces background) has ordered a sharp cut in amenities enjoyed at the few large bases. This is to provide more resources for the troops out in the field. This means that U.S. fast food outlets (like Burger King and Subway) will be shut down, and events like Karaoke Night are cancelled.
There are several practical reasons for this, despite the hit to morale (at least for the troops who live and work on these bases). First, unlike Iraq, it's more expensive and difficult to bring goods into landlocked Afghanistan. In Iraq, most items were shipped to Kuwait, then trucked a few hundred kilometers north, via well maintained highways, to the major U.S. bases around Baghdad. In Afghanistan, most stuff comes north from the Pakistani port of Karachi, along poor roads, and often under attack by bandits. Many items, especially weapons and combat vehicles, are flown into Afghanistan, at great expense.
And then there's the fact that more of the combat troops in Afghanistan are way out in the countryside, living under very primitive conditions. They rarely get to the big bases (like the ones outside Kabul or Kandahar), where the troops have air conditioning, beds, and good food in dining halls. Out in the bush, the fighters often live off MREs for weeks at a time. General McChrystal knows well that his fellow Special Forces troopers live a very different lifestyle than the fobbits (support troops at the FOBs, of Forward Operating Bases). McChrystal also knows that a too-lavish Fobbit standard of living annoys the hell out of the troops in the field.
One way to improve fobbit morale is to rotate combat troops back to the FOBs, for a few days of rest, and let the grunts march, in their grungy combat uniforms, from the landing strip to their guest quarters. The contrast might provide a morale boost for the fobbits. Meanwhile, the additional room in the trucks can bring in more building materials to improve the standard of living in the outlying bases that the combat troops call home (when they aren't chasing Taliban around the countryside). Meanwhile, the fobbits still have Internet, reliable electricity for their laptops and game consoles, and many other amenities that are in short supply the farther into the mountains you get.