No sooner had the tragic news broken yesterday of five more Australians killed in Afghanistan than Canberra's propaganda machine coughed and spluttered to life, all set to churn out its trademark combination of myth, platitude, euphemism, selective half-truth and straight-out lie.

The Prime Minister took the lead: 'This is a war with a purpose and an end', she said, pre-empting what by now should be obvious to even the most casual observer: that the war is devoid of purpose, its goals unattached to even a broad conception of Australia's national interest, and its end-date so arbitrarily ear-marked for some vague point in 2014 that the intervening period has become a kind of grisly, nihilistic waiting game, a prelude to capitulation, sustained only by the official illusion of imminent breakthrough.

On this front, someone hasn't been keeping the PM in the loop. 'We are making progress', she went on, apparently serious and with a kind of unswerving optimism no longer being peddled even in the US. This formulation, which we've heard time and again for over a decade, has been sapped and battered to the point of meaninglessness by the unavoidable realities of rising violence, persistent and endemic corruption and underdevelopment, and a local security force metastasising from mere ineffectiveness to murderous hostility.

So let's be clear: in no meaningful sense is progress being made. If the past decade has any lesson for us, it's that the scale and intractability of Afghanistan's problems militate against improvements that are anything other than negligible or ephemeral, or both.

And they're not our problems anyway, certainly not problems worth dying for. So forget training the Afghan Army. The alliance is why we've always been in Afghanistan, and the metrics for our commitment to that have, for better or worse, already returned to our own region. Australian troops should follow, post-haste, before any more are laid to waste out of political inertia and expedience.

Photo by Flickr user isafmedia.