The international community, Julia Gillard insisted overnight at the NATO meeting in Chicago, had sacrificed too much and worked too hard to fail to support the Afghanistan military.

The mistakes of the past, of course, provide no rationale for continuing them. Fortunately, the international community is now focused on extracting itself as quickly as possible from Afghanistan, under the pretence that the kleptocratic, misogynist Karzai government can take care of its own security with the financial and military assistance of western powers.

This may not be quite the “declare victory and get out” approach of the Vietnam era but it should begin drawing to an end the consequences of the greatest blunder of the George Bush and Tony Blair governments (happily supported by John Howard): redirecting resources into a disastrous attack on Iraq before the Taliban had been defeated. NATO servicemen and the soldiers of allies like Australia have been dying for that blunder ever since.

Australia’s commitment of $100 million a year over three years may sound expensive, but it’s far better than continuing an Australian combat role in a country where the allied presence is achieving little except delaying whatever resolution the people of Afghanistan and their warring powerbrokers can manage themselves. It is not worth wasting more Australian lives trying to correct the mistakes of the past.

It may not be worth spending $300 million either, but it’s only money.