The role of the US military forces in Afghanistan in 2015 has been one of the most contentious issues between the Obama administration and Pentagon. Previously, it had been decided that the US military would focus on training Afghan forces, and targeting al-Qaeda remnants post 2014. However, the collapse of the Iraqi military in the face of charging Islamic State (IS) militants has compelled the US President to reconsider.

Limiting the scope of operations, pulling out in haste while leaving the Afghan military untrained and incapable to counter the Taliban may ensure a repeat of the Iraq debacle. It appears that the Pentagon has won the case on this one; as President Obama has signed a deal which would allow the US military to engage with the Taliban, assist the Afghan forces in ground operations and offer support through air raids.

The transition in the Afghan government has also influenced Obama’s decision. The US government was struggling to extract cooperation from former President Hamid Karzai, especially towards the end of his long spell. With President Ashraf Ghani in power, who signed the controversial security agreement with the US after coming to power and favours an expansive US military role in his country for now, the US forces will continue to operate as they have till now.

Despite the widening scope of operations, there is serious cynicism over how much the US forces can achieve by 2016. Will it be enough?