President Ghani signed an agreement with Washington for 12,000 soldiers, overwhelmingly Americans, to remain in Afghanistan in 2015 to conduct counterterrorism operations and to advise, train, and assist local forces who are fighting hard against the Taliban. But as Afghanistan begins an uncertain new era of coalition governance and self-defense against Taliban insurgents, long delays in forming a cabinet and filling most top posts in the three month old administration have left public agencies in disarray and Afghans wondering who is in charge. Violence is increasing, and insurgents are making gains in outlying regions. In late October, the Afghan Defense Ministry said that 2014 had already become the deadliest year for Afghan forces since the 2001 US-led invasion, with a rising number of civilian deaths and injuries. As foreign troops withdraw, Kabul’s reach into the provinces has weakened, and it will struggle to maintain army rosters at current levels without billions of extra donor dollars. Afghanistan is not ready to see the US go, and it is now openly admitting it too.

Last Wednesday marked the final day of the US and NATO’s prolonged combat mission in Afghanistan, which began with the invasion that overthrew the Taliban shortly after the events of September 11th, 2001. Ghani said in an interview broadcast Sunday that the United States might want to “re-examine” the deadline for removing the remaining coalition troops by the end of 2016. During his visits to China, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia in the initial weeks of his presidency, Ghani wisely signaled his interest in ending the conflict through mediation and negotiation. However, this cannot be done without the aid of Pakistan and gives us more leverage in the future of Afghanistan. Kabul’s relationship with Islamabad remains strained and we have been sheltering militants in border areas.

Afghanistan has higher standards of living today than when it was under the Taliban regime, even when it is plagued by constant economic and political collapse. Today, millions of girls attend schools, several thousands are attending institutions of higher education, the government is more vibrant and civil society more active. The survival of this new post-Taliban setup is crucial. But with growing insecurity, corruption, US/NATO military withdrawal and other priorities around the world; the Afghan economy has lost momentum and the growth rate stands at 1.5%. Meanwhile, the number of Taliban attacks suggests that insurgents will continue to test their strength against that of the Afghan army. Fighting will remain an essential component of bargaining, and unfortunately, 2015 promises to be another violent year for the Afghans. Ghani seems to looking to solve the problem in earnest, but it is badly exposing the insecurity in Afghanistan and the fears of the civilian government.