It seems that John Howard has decided to take a play right out of the Republican handbook - when you are getting hammered in the polls pay a token visit to your troops in a combat zone.
Apparently Howard has flown to Afghanistan on the way back from Japan (I don't really see how that is "on the way back") in order to gather information about the possibility of increasing the Australian troop deployment there. This reeks of absolute desperation, why would Howard ever need to go to Afghanistan to gather information?
This is quite simply a political stunt which is designed to make Howard look more like a leader and less like the mud-flinging desiccated coconut that has occupied the national stage in the past few weeks. I don't think that the public will fall for it. Indeed, I think that they will be outraged that Howard has wasted money on such a obviously useless escapade.