Foreign Minister Murray McCully meets US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today to discuss, amongst other things, increasing our military commitment to the US occupation of Afghanistan. The only good news is that Prime Minister Key says Mrs Clinton "won't get an answer then and there".

This is better than a yes, but why the procrastination? It's eight years now since the US and the British launched Operation Enduring Freedom against this feudal backwater and nearly six since Helen Clark decided to hop on a white charger and join the crusade.

Yet what has changed? Just last week the puppet Government of President Hamid Karzai, who the Americans hand-picked to bring freedom to this land, passed a law making it legal for men to rape their wives if they refuse to consent to sex at least once every four days. The wife, says the law, "is bound to preen for her husband as and when he desires".

This is the language and thought processes of biblical times, and that's where it should be buried. Yet here we are continuing to support barbarians who play-act the democratic process to ensure our aid money keeps flowing.

Mr Key has already agreed to roll over our contribution to the 140-strong Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamiyan Province from September for another year at an additional cost of $41.5 million. By doing so, we send the message to President Karzai that New Zealand backs his primitive laws.

If we were to spend the money on building women's refuges and defending them from their menfolk, at least I might be able to see some point in our being there. Otherwise our aid money would be better spent closer to home in the Pacific.

Speaking to an international conference on Afghanistan in Holland last week, Mr McCully said New Zealand "made those commitments because we have not forgotten that the genesis of this conflict lies in the action of terrorists who pay no need to the norms and values of decent, civilised societies". But what's the point of risking the lives of our young soldiers, and large amounts of taxpayers' money, if the people we are backing are just as uncivilised and lacking in decent values as the Taleban baddies?

Also, we're supposed to be there to stop worldwide terrorism in its nest bed. But somehow the occupation troops and the Karzai Government turn a blind eye to the opium traffic out of Afghanistan which causes more misery on the streets of every large city in the US and Europe and beyond every day than Osama bin Laden could ever dream of achieving.

A joint report by the United Nations' Office on Drugs and Crime and the World Bank shows that between 1990 and 2005, Afghanistan's opium production has increased from 1570 tonnes to 4100 tonnes and the area of cultivation has grown over the same 15 years from 41,300ha to 104,000ha.

Production dropped dramatically in 2001 to 185 tonnes because of a temporary production ban order by the Taleban, but exploded as soon as the Taleban were chased into the hills. Now all sides seem to be making money out of this insidious trade. Afghanistan now provides 87 per cent of the world's opium and the UN report estimates it represents 27 per cent of the country's GDP.

Reports from Wellington suggest Mrs Clinton wants to borrow our special forces - the secretive Special Air Service - for more frontline duty. Since December 2001, the SAS has been deployed there three times. Corporal Willie Apiata won a Victoria Cross in one of these incursions and, luckily, none of our troops have returned in a body bag yet, though three New Zealand-born soldiers with foreign forces have.

But it will inevitably happen, and for what?

In October last year, the departing British commander in Afghanistan, Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith, said a military victory over the Taleban was "neither feasible nor supportable". He said that in the areas where the Government had no control, the Afghan population was "vulnerable to a shifting coalition of Taleban, mad mullahs and marauding militias".

In March this year, a policy brief to the European Council on Foreign Relations, by Daniel Korski, a former senior policy adviser to British and Afghani Governments, said that attempting to weaken the appeal of the Taleban to ordinary Afghans by strengthening the bond between state and citizen by improving state services "is unlikely to bear fruit in the short term". He says that "eight years after the Taleban's fall, for example, there are only a few hours of electricity a day in Kabul".

He says the problem "is compounded by the fact that in most parts of the country, the provision of services is dictated by European politics, not by on-the-ground needs". He gives the example of Danish aid money invested on school buildings that the locals can't defend from Taleban attack.

Also, "many ordinary Afghans ... have little interest in forging a bond with the central government in Kabul".

Nearly 150 years ago, the British Governor-General in India, Lord Auckland - after whom our main city is named - dispatched an army of 16,000, with 38,000 camp followers, into Afghanistan to make British India, and the Empire, safe.

Two years later, just one survivor staggered back to the British fort at Jalalabad. "Where's the army?" he was asked. "I'm it," he replied. Treachery in high places and marauding tribesmen had delivered the British their greatest defeat - up until then, anyway.

Little seems to have changed in that wild place. We should get out now.