In a speech before Congress Wednesday, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani gave a solemn thanks to the American people for their war-time sacrifices. Ghani, earning a standing ovation from U.S. lawmakers, marked a diplomatic turning point.
"What you have is a change of tone for President Ghani," CBS News National Security Analyst Juan Zarate says, pointing to the White House's soured relationship with former Afghanistan Hamid Karzai. "A realization that you have to rebuild those ties."
During Ghani's trip to the U.S., his first since he was elected president, President Obama announced that the U.S. troop withdrawal would stop, and 9,800 U.S. troops would remain in place in Afghanistan until the end of 2015, instead of the 4,900 that had originally been planned. This, Zarate says, laid the groundwork for a "longer term relationship that includes potentially U.S. troops beyond 2016."
"Any president would be responsible in reassessing what he announced a couple of years ago, given the changing landscape," Zarate says.
The reasons for a reconsideration of this military strategy, Zarate points out, are the active pockets of Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters that still exist in the region.
If American forces leave the ground by 2016, the CBS news analyst asks, "are we going to be caught in the same kind of quandary we are with ISIS in Syria and Iraq?"