As news seeped out that American troops could be stationed in Afghanistan through the year 2024 “and beyond,” questions began to proliferate toward the Obama administration. Over the course of a couple years the mantra has been that America’s presence in Iraq is over and the U.S. footprint in Afghanistan is fading away. With these recent revelations stemming from Afghanistan that speak directly to the contrary, this narrative is now on trial. Further, if the reaction from the State Department is any indication, then we are in store for a very confusing trial.

Indeed, the amount of confusion has become so great between the U.S. and Afghanistan that the words of Afghan President Karzai are now apparently unreliable. Karzai reportedly said in a recent private meeting that he wishes to have the next president of Afghanistan sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), as opposed to himself. The position of the U.S., in the meantime, has always been to have the BSA signed and completed by the year’s end. Since the Afghan election would make such an American aim impossible, this puts the Obama administration in a bind to say the least.

According to the State Department, however, this bind is not demonstrated with an impasse. Rather, the Administration is still unclear about the “meaning” of Karzai’s words. It certainly seems as though what Karzai reportedly said was perfectly lucid. Perhaps if his words were stated differently the confusion would arise. What Karzai has really said, after all, is that he and the United States are not on the same page. Politically speaking one can see the damage done to the Administration here. The State Department has reiterated emphatically that the American position remains the same. The BSA needs to be signed by the year’s end. It appears as though confusion may be the least of the Administration’s worries if it comes down to interpreting rather clear statements from President Karzai.

In addressing the presence of troops after the year 2014 the State Department was no more reassuring in clearing the air. Plagued by recent reports that American presence could very well go on in Afghanistan for decades to come, the Administration is now up against a firestorm of scrutiny. President Obama apparently has not yet decided on the number of troops that will remain if the BSA is signed, according to the State Department. Further, he has not arrived at a decision regarding the duration of their stay.

At this point, then, we have reportedly two very different game plans on the table. On the one hand, the U.S. will have an enduring role in Afghanistan for many, many years to come. On the other hand, we have something that is not yet a plan at all, with the numbers of troops and the length of deployment still unspecified. In either case, both hands are operating in a state of perplexity at the moment, a condition even the State Department is hard pressed to correct.

All this bewilderment, to a large extent, would be understandable and even tolerable if it were to occur one year after our new relationship with Afghanistan began. It’s important to recall, however, that the Taliban was evicted in 2001. From then onward the Administration has had a working relationship with the Afghan government of some kind or another. That there is so much confusion surrounding the nature of America’s presence in the region after 2014 is startling (or reasonable, depending on which report you read and on which day.)

The tenuous, sometimes laborious relations between the Obama Administration and President Karzai are categorized by the response to a question posed at a recent State Department press briefing. When asked, “Is President Karzai a reliable partner?” State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki replied, “That’s a big trick question.” After the last few days and the conflicting reports that have arisen concerning U.S. involvement in Afghanistan past 2014, trick question only says the half of it.