I was told this recently at a party. It doesn't matter that all this happened within the past five years; it's still straight out of an Evelyn Waugh novel.
“My friend in the Army had to go and visit some Italian troops in Iraq. Different NATO countries had divided up different areas to watch over, and the Italians had been placed in charge of a stretch of road that coalition troops would need to use frequently. After six months, this road was incident-free; no-one had reported being attacked, and the Italians themselves had not encountered a single problem. The British and Americans were stunned, and went to see for themselves just what it was the Italians had been doing right.
“When they arrived at the highway in question, the Italians were nowhere to be seen. Eventually they were found about half a mile away, guarding an empty road that turned out to be a long drive leading to someone’s house. They’d been there by mistake for the entire six months while the busy highway, frequently used by coalition troops, had been entirely unguarded. It was a total fluke that no-one had been attacked.
“Less amusing, because of the subsequent body count, when French troops handed over to the Americans an area that they’d been tasked with guarding, where they, too, had done an impressive job of keeping the peace, they didn’t tell the incoming force that this was because they’d bee paying off anyone in the region who might have given them trouble. Whether the Americans would have acted differently if they’d known this is moot; it became clear that no more payments were being made, and violence skyrocketed.”