November 4, 2009: When France refused to participate in the in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and became quite critical of the effort, many Americans called them "cheese eating surrender monkeys" (a term first hurled against the French early in World War II). French participation in Afghanistan has also been halting and tentative. But that has all changed recently, and U.S. troops are less wary about operating with French troops. Like many other NATO allies, the restrictions on the use of their troops in Afghanistan have been eased, to allow for aggressive combat against an increasingly aggressive enemy (Taliban, bandits and drug gangs).
Meanwhile, the French have been quietly active in the war on terror since September 11, 2001. French special operations troops have been very active (if low profile) in Afghanistan for years. French troops have been in Djibouti (adjacent to Somalia) for years, and host a larger force of U.S. Special Forces and special operations personnel.
In Afghanistan, closer cooperation between U.S. and French troops has revealed, to the Americans, that the French are well trained, equipped and led. And are generally quite effective in combat. Cheese eating surrender monkeys with an edge, and automatic weapons. There are 2,800 French troops in Afghanistan.