Officials are scrambling to defend a secret order by President Obama which completely abandons the pretense of the Afghan War ending at the end of 2014, ordering troops to continue to carry out “direct combat operations” throughout 2015, and potentially beyond.
They are now insisting the move is aimed at “protecting” the new Ghani government in Afghanistan which they describe as much more grateful for the 13+ year occupation than Hamid Karzai was.
In practice this just means Ghani is more willing to sign off on expanding the war above and beyond what the “through 2024 and beyond” pact, which is supposed to take effect in January, would otherwise allow.
For years NATO has been escalating the Afghan War and carrying out policies in open defiance of the Karzai government, particularly as it relates to airstrikes against cities. This has been a constant PR struggle, however, and Ghani seems to be extremely pliable in that regard.
This means that the planned expansion of the 2015 war may just be the first step toward a broader extension of the occupation, now that they finally have an Afghan president, at least sort of elected, who will go along with the idea.