The debate about Australia's role in Afghanistan has revealed an alarming convergence of opinion between the progressive Left and hard-headed strategists on the merits of an early withdrawal, write Anthony Burke and Andrew Phillips in The Australian.

"The war's critics assume that we can do no further good in Afghanistan, and that the existing security situation will not deteriorate (and might even improve) were Western forces to leave.

"On both counts, they are dangerously wrong. While they rightly point to worrying trends such as the Karzai family's corruption, the unsecured border with Pakistan, civilian suffering and the Taliban's campaign of intimidation, they have failed to set out an acceptable Plan B. This is because there is none," the authors argue.

"The problem has been compounded by the limited explanation suggested by government and opposition MPs for why Afghanistan matters. Denying al-Qa'ida a safe haven in the country and maintaining the US alliance is in fact a weak rationale for our continuing commitment. They are valid priorities, but they are not the chief reasons we must stay in Afghanistan.

"We and the rest of International Security Assistance Force mission must stay because a precipitate Western withdrawal would trigger the Afghan government's swift collapse, sparking a terrible civil war that would further destabilise an already volatile region. Backed by factions in Pakistan, the Taliban and its allies would mount a brutal drive on Kabul that could kill tens of thousands."

Read the full opinion piece here.

Dr Anthony Burke is associate professor of international politics, UNSW@ADFA; Dr Andrew Phillips is a fellow in the Department of International Relations, ANU.