John Howard criticises Afghanistan departure

Former prime minister John Howard says Australia has not made any "errors" in its involvement with Afghanistan, adding the original commitment was "totally justified".

Australia joined the US-led coalition in Afghanistan in November 2001 in a bid to remove the Taliban from power and to defeat Al-Qaeda.

The Taliban gained control of Afghanistan in a lightning offensive in recent weeks as the last American troops prepared to leave – signaling the end to a 20-year operation in the war-torn country.

Mr Howard said he understood the American public had become "war-weary" and "both side of politics had indicated that" but criticised the departure.

"My criticism about the way it’s been handled is, was it absolutely essential to withdraw every last solider by a given date," he said.

"I don’t think that was necessary, there was no reason why a very much smaller force could not have been left there.

"That would have prevented some of the negative images that have clearly come out of Afghanistan and could well have emboldened the Afghan army, provided it have been supplemented by some air cover, to have provided some more resistance to the Taliban.

"I don’t think it was absolutely essential to withdraw every last solider."