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Published Canberra Times

There will be no clear thinking on Afghanistan until NATO, the United States and Australia weigh the financial cost against likely outcomes, factor in the human cost and analyse the policy behind the engagement.

Winning the war means killing the Taliban and winning the hearts minds of the local population. Killing in order to achieve peace is a difficult proposition, particularly when the nature of the conflict means that women and children will also be killed. That fact identifies a rich source of recruitment and support.

Even if Afghanistan could be cleared of the Taliban and supporters, such a clearance would see them live and conduct operations from Pakistan. Would Western nations then propose clearing Pakistan?

Topography, time and birthright, is on the side of the guerrilla. How long would Western nations propose staying in Afghanistan in order to ensure the absence of the Taliban? What if the continued presence of foreign troops morphed into opposition across Afghanistan, involving all socio economic groups and ethnicities?

What if the Taliban infiltrated back into the country through warlord, drug and government organisations?

What weight is placed on negations?