Troop Morale Drops in Afghanistan, Army Study Says

Army study says troop morale in Afghanistan has dropped dramatically.

ByABC News via GMA logo
November 15, 2009, 10:50 AM

Nov. 15, 2009— -- As President Obama weighs his decision about U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, another factor has come into play, the declining morale of U.S. troops there.

It has been eight years since the first U.S. combat troops put boots on the ground in Afghanistan and many of them have since been deployed three, four or even five times.

The strain is taking its toll. According to a recent report by the U.S. Army, soldiers' perception of their units' morale has dramatically decreased over the past two years.

In 2007, the percentage of soldiers who said their units' morale was high, was 10.2 percent. In 2009, only 5.7 percent reported high morale.

Barbara Van Dahlen is a psychologist and founder of Give an Hour, an organization that provides free mental health services to service members and their families.

"We are seeing the wear and tear on this military population, absolutely," Van Dahlan says.

"They're tired. That's what people kind of say over and over again," she says. "You meet with families, you talk with people on base, they're tired. They're still doing their job. They're still dedicated to the mission, but they're tired."

The war in Afghanistan now rivals the Revolutionary War and Vietnam as the longest American war in history, but military experts say the war in Afghanistan is different in one key way.

Unlike the other long wars, this one is being fought by an all-volunteer force. That means it's the same group of people who keep going back and doing the job.

Bill Nash is a retired major general who led forces in Bosnia in the 1990s. "That's where the great stress comes from," Nash says. "And that's a reflection of a small military force and that small force being a minuscule fraction of the population of the nation. So the burdens are not shared, and unshared burdens bring about stress."