President Obama is learning to appreciate the fact that ending wars is much harder than starting them. The much anticipated Afghanistan drawback has had yet another change in plans; Obama, caught between the republican electioneering and Pentagon’s persistence, is having a hard time maintaining a consistent stance. Not only did he extend the US military’s role in Afghanistan, new sources suggest that more soldiers than the number previously agreed on will stay beyond 2014. While his detractors will find ample ways to spin this new development against him; in the wake of recent events, this is a prudent move.

Domestic policy and mandate urged Obama to bring two white elephants back to the enclosure – the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The spectacular implosion of Iraq has led the admin to rethink its hasty retreat. The new order instructs remaining US troops to engage the Taliban, as opposed to just al Qaeda. It allows them to accompany Afghan troops on combat missions and carry out airstrikes and drone attacks when needed. This is a far cry from what Operation Resolute Support was intended to be; a training and logistical support mission.

How will the Afghan people take this announcement. How will the Taliban? The Afghan parliament approved the Bilateral Security Agreement in full knowledge of the change in its scope, and President Ashraf Ghani has cut a nervous figure after the recent spate of bombings. The reaffirmation of continued assistance will come as a relief. The Taliban, on the other hand, will take this as more proof of the influence of ‘foreign invaders’ over the ‘puppet government’. The move is eventually a trade-off, while will make it harder for the government to engage in dialogue with the Taliban and will draw more ferocious attacks; it also bolsters their ability to tackle threats. On the flip side, Pakistan can be sure of the fact that the much-hated drone campaigns will still continue unabated.

The US fear of another Iraq-esque failure has led them to prudently bolster Afghan fighting capability, yet the endgame is hard to see. The US is delaying the inevitable retreat, it is now upon Afghanistan to utilise this lifeline.