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Distribution of Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in Afghanistan (2005).

A Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) is a unit introduced by the United States government, consisting of military officers, diplomats, and reconstruction subject matter experts, working to support reconstruction efforts in unstable states. PRTs were first established in Afghanistan in early 2002, and as of 2008 operate there as well as in Iraq. While the concepts are similar, PRTs in Afghanistan and Iraq have separate compositions and missions. Their common purpose, however, is to empower local governments to govern their constituents more effectively.


A PRT includes a military component (Civil Affairs/Force Protection, etc.), civilian police advisors, and civilian representatives of US (or other national) government foreign affairs agencies. In a US-led PRT, this generally includes a representative from USAID, the Department of State, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Justice. They are assisted by public diplomacy and reporting staff. The PRTs are the primary civil-military relations tool in Afghanistan and Iraq and are described as “'a means to extend the reach and enhance the legitimacy of the central government'” into the provinces of Afghanistan.[1]

A PRT in Afghanistan is commanded by a military officer, generally of the rank of Lieutenant Colonel or Commander. The officer is supported by a team of various specialties including civil affairs, engineers, medical staff, public affairs, information operations, logistics and a platoon of National Guard soldiers for security. The staff generally numbers between sixty and one hundred persons. There is no lead agency or department; the US government civilians and the military commander form an executive committee of equals which develops a strategy for the PRT, drawing on the expertise of all contributing agencies. By 2009, the military still dominated the role within PRTs as only three to four civilians were posted to each team of eighty to two hundred and fifty personnel. The lack of civilian personnel civilian executive agencies was a serious concern of CENTCOM commanders.[2] Activities in Afghanistan focus on extending the reach of the central government into the provinces.[3]

In an Iraq PRT, the Team Leader is a civilian who reports to the US Department of State; the deputy team leader is generally a military officer. While civil affairs members are present on the team, there are more civilians than military personnel on the team. Functional areas include rule of law, reconstruction and development, agriculture, and governance. Some Iraq PRTs are embedded into the Brigade Combat Team (BCT) with which they are colocated (ePRT). The BCT retains responsibility for providing security for the civilian team members. While PRTs in Afghanistan focused on short-term effects and ensuring an attractive alternative to the insurgency was available, Iraq PRTs focus on building the governance capacity at the local levels of government.[3]

Public Diplomacy

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead (middle) tours FOB Rushmore in 2008.

Public diplomacy is an essential element to successful Provincial Reconstruction Team projects. PRTs, in Afghanistan, are tasked with a specific area of a province and coordinate, develop, and fund local projects with the aid of the government. These projects enable the local population to become familiar with and trust the U.S. counterinsurgency efforts in Afghanistan. Projects supported by PRTs are created and approved by the ranks of the entire provincial government in Afghanistan. The ability of PRTS to conduct Public diplomacy and their ability to work with the provincial government makes counterinsurgency objectives obtainable.[4]

The PRT’s civil affairs line of operation exerts a large amount of public diplomacy. CA operations are responsible, along with the provincial government, for implementation and supervision of projects in the province. These projects include public affairs like humanitarian supply distribution, like school and medical supplies. Civil affairs operations are responsible for reaching out to the population to determine what is needed to make society stable and secure from the insurgent ideology. To do this they must get to know the environment, including the people, places, and culture of their section of the province.[4]

In addition to the military cooperation with the provincial government, civilian agencies like the U.S. department of Agriculture and the U.S. Agency for International Development, have a strong hand in the projects structured by the PRTs. For example, these agencies work together to improve farming techniques and introduce ways to bring goods to local markets to meet the increasing demand rather than taking them into Pakistan. PRTs’ interaction with the Afghan people enhance U.S. public relations and allow the civilians of Afghanistan to trust the American presence in their domain. The only way that the counterinsurgency in Afghanistan can achieve victory is through long-term patience and keeping the people’s political will through the Provincial Reconstruction Teams in the U.S. military.[4]

Information operations associated with PRTs are also a vital aspect to conducting public diplomacy in order to defeat insurgencies. It is imperative that all actors in the counterinsurgency effort coordinate what they are relaying to the public that they are operating in. These operations can include psychological operations, operational security, and military deception operations to deceive the enemy. Information operations assist civil affairs, medical outreach, and agricultural projects by providing information to the local Afghani’s about counterinsurgency projects and illustrating beneficial effects of them to the community. These operations, as a part of PRTs, enable to the civilians to see how the U.S. military-civilian efforts work secure their society and defeat the insurgents influence. Information operations must be consistent between civilian and military operations.[5]

The goal of the PRTs is to “enhance their popular legitimacy of the provincial government by developing their capacity to conduct reconstruction and provide effective governance.”[4] In order for the civilian population to feel secure the PRTs need to enhance effectiveness and strength of the provincial government in the area. In order to support the counterinsurgency efforts PRTs build government legitimacy by reconstruction and development to separate the insurgents from the people and to instill trust in U.S. COIN operations. In order for these Provincial Reconstruction Teams to be successful at building the populations trust and security in the provincial government and not in the insurgents, the PRTs need to utilize a large amount of public diplomacy to reach out to the civilians of these Afghan provinces.


Canadian PRT patrolling in Kandahar Province

The main funding for PRT's comes from Provincial Reconstruction and Development Committee (PRDC) and Quick Response Fund (QRF) programs under ISAF. Also, some funding comes from USAID; namely under the Community Stabilization Program (CSP); the Local Governance Program (LGP); Community Action Program (CAP); Izdihar Economic Growth Program; and the INMA Agri-business Program.[6]

Additional sources are: the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund (IRRF), the Commander's Emergency Response Program (CERP) is the main fund used by the United States Army or USMC Civil Affairs Teams in both Iraq and Afghanistan. By the new regulations that came out in early 2009, the Iraqi Government has to pay half (50%) of projects above $750,000.

CERP Officers have authority to sign agreements with contractors up to $200,000. The Pay Agent disburses cash or pays by electronic transfer (EFT) in Afghanistan. The PRT Commander (LTC or CDR) can approve projects up to $25,000. CERP guidelines require that development projects be coordinated through and sustained by local governments and prohibit the use of funding for the salaries of government officials.[7] The monies can't be used by police or security forces. CERP projects from up to $200,000 have to be approved by the Task Force Commander. The contracts are written in US Engineering standards. The Army usually pays by electronic funds transfer as pay agents are discouraged from paying cash to contractors in Afghanistan. The projects are paid in phases. Engineers work through project details with contractors. If the contractors fail the performance work standard, the engineer can recommend that the PRT withhold funds until project deficiencies are corrected. The project can also be cancelled.

One of the issues that holds up a project is sustainability. If the project can't be self-sustaining, such as an electric utility in a small village or town, it will not be approved by higher headquarters. Mandated 'Terms of Use' contracts are signed by the end user of the projects to insure PRTs are providing a self-sufficient resource and will not be responsible for its upkeep. One year guarantee on contractor workmanship is standard.

Other funds that are not used by the Civil Affairs Section: the Development Fund for Iraq. (DFI) and new funding targeted specifically for USAID Focused Stabilization, Community Action and Local Governance Program (LGP) as well as PRT development funding.[8]

Concept and history

Coalition medics travelling to remote villages in Ghazni Province to provide medical care.

The overall PRT concept in Afghanistan was, and is, to use relatively small joint civil-military units to achieve three objectives. PRT objectives are to improve security, to extend the authority of the Afghan central government, and finally to facilitate reconstruction.[9][10]

The first PRT was located in Gardez in Paktia Province, co-located with US Special Forces "A" team members. A Civil Affairs team provided the daily contact with locals and tribal leaders. A contingent of the 2nd Battalion, 504th Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division provided security in and around the compound. The sole civilian when the PRT became fully operational on February 1, 2003, was Thomas Praster of the State Department. At the end of March, he was joined by former US Army Lieutenant Colonel Randolph Hampton, who worked under contract with the USAID providing overwatch to the rebuilding of schools and medical clinics throughout Paktia, Khwost, and Ghazni Provinces.

Security was always an issue as the 100 by 125 foot mud-walled compound was attacked over 35 times by 105 mm rockets and RPGs.[citation needed] The PRT initiative has been expanded throughout most of the provinces for the purpose of reconstruction and reconciliation programs throughout Afghanistan. The 1st Provincial Reconstruction Team laid the critical cornerstones to future PRT initiatives throughout Afghanistan.[citation needed] PRTs have been part of the NATO-led ISAF mission since October 5, 2006.

The training for the majority of the American PRTs took place at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, it has now been moved to Camp Atterbury, Indiana.[11] The training is overseen by the 189th Infantry Brigade, which specializes in training PRTs. Other units, including the 158th Infantry Brigade, support the 189th as it trains the PRTs in groups of twelve at a time. The training takes anywhere from six weeks to three months.[12]

After returning from an international conference in Munich in mid-February 2011, Afghan President Hamid Karzai accused foreign reconstruction teams of undermining efforts to build up the state's institutions, and said they would have to go as Afghan forces take over security. "Afghanistan clearly explained its viewpoint on Provincial Reconstruction Teams and structures parallel to the Afghan government - private security companies and all activities or bodies which are hindering the Afghan government's development and hindering the governance of Afghanistan," he said.[13] Meanwhile, five rocket-propelled grenades hit a newly built South Korean military base in Parwan Province, northern Afghanistan, which housed hundreds of members of Korea’s provincial reconstruction team and civilian aid workers. No one was injured in the attack, but it came hours after a visit by South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin, raising suspicions of Taliban involvement. The opening ceremony of the base was postponed indefinitely.[14]

Afghan PRTs

Camp Marmal, located in Balkh Province, under construction in 2006.

As of November 2013, there is currently only 1 active PRT, Ghazni.

Regional Command West

Meeting of Italian and U.S. commanders at Regional Command West HQ in Herat.

The Regional Command West is at Herat and is led by Italian forces. There are (as of November 2008) * PRT Farah (USA)

Regional Command South

On July 31, 2006, ISAF assumed command over the southern region of Afghanistan. The Regional Command South HQ is at Kandahar. In late 2010, 10th Mountain Division (United States) took control of RC-South.

  • PRT Uruzgan (USA, Australia & the Netherlands)

Regional Command East/Combined Joint Task Force 101 (US led)

  • PRT Ghazni (Poland, USA)

Iraq PRTs

The PRT concept was imported from Afghanistan into Iraq in 2005. That year, 10 PRTs were established in Ninewa, at-Ta'Mim, Salah ad-Din, Diyala, Basra (UK), Dhi Qar (Italy), Erbil (South Korea), Baghdad, Anbar, and Babil.[3] As part of the Iraq War troop surge of 2007, the number of PRTs was expanded to cover every province in the country.[15] Additionally, ePRTs were rolled out to work with the sub-provincial levels of government. By 2008, there were 31 PRTs, including 13 ePRTs, located throughout Iraq.[16] Beginning in 2008, a PRT including USDA agricultural advisers worked with Iraqi farmers and created the Green Mada’in Association for Agricultural Development, an agricultural cooperative of 800 farmers in Mada’in Qada.[17] A new book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for Iraqi Hearts and Minds, by former PRT Team Leader Peter Van Buren, covers the Green Mada'in and other reconstruction projects in Iraq.[18]

See also


  1. Bebber, Robert J.. "The Role of Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in Counterinsurgency Operations: Khost Province, Afghanistan". Small Wars Journal [quoting Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual FM 3-24]. Retrieved March 31, 2011. 
  2. Kopp, Harry (2011). Career Diplomacy, Second Ed.. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press. pp. 96. ISBN 978-1-58901-740-5. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Robert M. Perito (March 2007). "Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Iraq" (PDF). United States Institute of Peace. Archived from the original on 2008-07-10. Retrieved 2008-11-23. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Bebber, Robert J.. "The Role of Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in Counterinsurgency Operations: Khost Province, Afghanistan". Small Wars Journal. Retrieved March 31, 2011. 
  5. Ruiz, Moses T.. "sharpening+the+spear:+the+united+states'+provincial" "Sharpening the Spear: The United States' Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Afghanistan". University-San Marcos."sharpening+the+spear:+the+united+states'+provincial". Retrieved March 31, 2011. 
  6. Programs funding PTR's.
  7. Vasquez, Lawrence. "Time to Reevaluate the Role of Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Afghanistan?", The Brookings Institution, 4 November 2010.
  8. PRT funding sources.
  9. Jakobsen, Peter Viggo, 2005. PRTs in Afghanistan: Successful but not sufficient. DIIS Report 2005:6. Copenhagen: Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS).
  10. Perito, Robert M, 2005. The U.S. Experience with Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Afghanistan – Lessons Identified. Special Report 152. Washington: United States Institute of Peace (USIP).
  12. First Army's 189th Infantry Brigade Trains Provincial Construction Teams for Afghanistan, First Army Public Affairs. Retrieved 2008-12-05.
  13. "Hamid Karzai says Afghanistan aid teams must go". 2-8-2011. Retrieved 2-11-2011. 
  14. Moon, Gwang-lip (2-12-2011). "Taliban strike on Koreans confirmed". Retrieved 2-11-2011. 
  15. "Fact Sheet: Expanded Provincial Reconstruction Teams Speed the Transition to Self-Reliance". White House Office of the Press Secretary. July 2007. Retrieved 2008-11-23. 
  16. "Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) Fact Sheet". 2008 Press Release. Embassy of the United States, Baghdad, Iraq. March 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-23. 
  17. Habenstreit, Linda C. Co-op playing key role as Iraq rebuilds farm sector. Rural Cooperatives. 10 Jan. 2010.

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