The Australian prime minister who ordered the involvement of Australian troops in Afghanistan told The Canberra Times in an exclusive interview he had "absolutely no regrets" about his decision 20 years ago.
John Howard decided to stand with George W. Bush in the American president's decision to attack the bases of Al Qaeda, the organisation behind the hijackings of four aircraft on September 11, 2001.
The Taliban, which had sheltered the leaders of the terrorist organisation, was ousted from power. The bombing of the area near the Pakistan border forced Osama bin Laden to flea and hide in Pakistan, where he was later cornered by American special forces and executed.
But the Taliban is now returning in triumph. Already, women have been beaten and told not to work or study.
In an echo of the scuttle from Vietnam by American and allied diplomats in 1975, helicopters have been ferrying western people to safety from Kabul.
Their Afghan helpers remain in extreme danger. Speaking before the Taliban's final rapid advance on Kabul, Mr Howard said those who had helped Australia should be given visas to live in Australia.
"I have absolutely no regrets about the decision my government took 20 years ago to involve this country," Mr Howard said. "It was the right thing to do.
"There was little doubt based on the intelligence that came forward very quickly that this attack had been orchestrated by Al Qaeda, which was harbouring in Afghanistan. There was little doubt about that."
But he would not be drawn on whether it was wise to stay beyond the destruction of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Nor would he explain how a war against the 9/11 organisers in Afghanistan morphed into a war against Iraq (which had nothing to do with the attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon in Washington).
Mr Howard believes that the initial decision to attack in Afghanistan was the right one and was successful.
"Obviously, over the years, there were different decisions taken by different governments about the level of our involvement. And I don't choose to get into a lengthy commentary about the way in which that involvement has waxed and waned.
"Right at the moment, my major interest is clearly for what happened to be terrible tragedy, if the Taliban got complete control of the country. Again, that is a possibility."
But the Taliban's victory has been swifter than many expected. Its fighters have now taken control of the Afghan capital, Kabul.
The fate of Afghans who helped Australian troops and diplomats is unclear and must be extremely precarious. There is no doubt they are in danger. The Taliban has a proven track record of executing those it deems as "infidels", whether they be people who worked for the now ousted government or women who did not conform to its strict dress code and ultra-austere morality.
Before it was expelled from Kabul, public executions in the city's football stadium were common.
Mr Howard pleaded with the current Australian government to help those who had helped Australia. "I'm very concerned to see that those Afghans who, in many cases, risked their lives to help Australians, that they are taken care of.
"And that those those who really did take the big risks and are genuinely at risk, they should be given visas to come to Australia.
"I do not want to see a repetition of what happened all those years ago in Vietnam when people who'd been very close allies of Australia were just abandoned. That was a terrible shame and a blight on our national honour, and I don't want to see that happen in Afghanistan."
Did Mr Howard have any regrets? "No, the answer is no. I have no regrets at all. No, I don't."
But he added: "I obviously regret very much, and have expressed those regrets on many occassions, the loss of 41 Australian lives in that military operation.
"And I also, of course, very deeply regret the loss of Australian and other lives in the Al Qaeda attack - the organised attack - on the World Trade Centre."