November 9, 2005:
After a rocky start in Afghanistan, and steep learning curve, the American PRTs (Provincial Reconstruction Teams) are an idea that is being tried out in Iraq as well. PRTs are basically Civil Affairs teams augmented by specialists from various U.S. government agencies (State Department, Department of Defense, and aid oriented organizations), that work with, and under the protection of American troops, to expedite reconstruction projects. With so much of Iraqi pacified, it's possible to proceed more aggressively with reconstruction efforts. One thing the PRTs will have is better capability to monitor projects, and counter the corruption that is still so prevalent in the country. It's particularly disheartening to watch reconstruction funds stolen by Iraqi officials (or tribal leaders) who are supposed to be supervising things. Often, these thieves (who are, after all, just doing what their counterparts have done for a long time), will back off if confronted with some real oversight (especially if it's backed up by American troops). Nothing like heavily armed auditors to reduce the thieving.
Three PRTs are being set up now. Based on the experience in Afghanistan, where the first PRTs were established two years ago, these Iraqi versions will undergo months of trial and error. This will establish the right mix of personnel and procedures to make the system work in Iraq.