Last week Barack Obama reiterated that the United States and Australia were on track to hand over to Afghan forces by 2014.

But while the president has announced US withdrawals, Australia has not. Today in parliament, in what will kick off the final parliamentary sitting week of the year, Julia Gillard will deliver a statement on our costly involvement. It’s believed that Gillard, who has recently returned from visiting troops immediately in the wake of the death of three Australian soldiers at the hands of an Afghan soldier, will claim progress in the conflict that has run for over a decade.

There’s been progress on one front — public opinion. As Essential Research reports today, since October last year, support for the withdrawal of Australian troops has increased from 47% to 64%. Just 26% (down 4%) think we should maintain troop numbers and 4% (down 1%) think we should increase them.

There was majority support for withdrawal by all voting groups — 60% of Liberal/National voters, 61% Labor and 75% Greens. Support for withdrawal was also similar across age, gender and income.

One issue that unites across party lines. So why are two desperately populist major parties ignoring it?

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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