The missing civil half of any public plan is the responsibility of the State Department and USAID, neither of which has ever produced a meaningful, detailed, public report on the nature and effectiveness of their civil efforts in either the Afghan or Iraq Wars. In spite of the very real efforts and sacrifices of their personnel in the field, neither has shown real leadership in Washington, and their promises to produce plans and effectiveness measures have never been kept.
This is not a minor bureaucratic failure. The civil side of the war is at least as critical as the future role of the U.S. military. Work by the World Bank and the Afghan government both warn that the Afghan government is so dependent on outside aid and military spending in country that the entire government and war effort could collapse during 2014 and the years that follow without effective outside aid efforts.
In short, we should not make any decisions regarding the future of the war without a comprehensive effort by the Obama administration to fully address the issues that truly shape the war, without clear presidential leadership, and without transparent public transition plans that can allow the Congress and the nation to debate the way forward and reach some form of real consensus. This need becomes clear from even a brief examination of the other issues that need to be addressed in shaping our future commitments.