Peacekeeping: Provincial Reconstruction Team Training

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June 12, 2006: The United States has begun training PRT (Provincial Reconstruction Team) members in the U.S., instead of just assembling the teams in Afghanistan and Iraq and letting them get acquainted and learn their jobs. The new training program involves the senior people, and lasts up to 45 days.

The United States has had great success with its PRTs in Afghanistan. These evolved from the JRTs (Joint Reconstruction Teams) established by U.S. Army Special Forces in 2002. Seventeen PRTs are run by U.S. troops (including five in Iraq), with another eleven operated by NATO forces. The typical PRT has 60-100 people (depending on local needs). Most (80 percent) of these are military personnel. The rest are civilian specialists, including a police officer from the Afghan Interior Ministry. American PRTs are commanded by army lieutenant colonel, who is actually leading two civil affairs teams, an Army Reserve military police unit, plus intelligence and psychological operations teams. The civilians usually consist of officials from the State Department, USAID, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The rest of the troops are assigned to security duties, which can be pretty tense in areas where Taliban gunmen are operating, but is basically police work (against bandits and unruly warlord militias) elsewhere. These security troops often end up assisting in reconstruction as well. The Afghans have been urging the expansion of the PRT system, not just to get more reconstruction expertise to all areas of the country, but to provide some protection for reconstruction staff (including the many NGOs that are not a part of the PRT system.)

PRTs have had problems with bureaucratic roadblocks created by different Department of Defense, State Department and USAID agendas. The State Department, when told to send people to work with PRTs, provided very junior folks, with little experience in anything. The Department of Defense has people there to provide security and is, technically, not involved in nation building. But the troops can take over in an emergency, because they are, after all, in charge of security. But in active areas like Iraq and Afghanistan, the military is really running the show. Combat needs come first, and everything else, including nation building, is support. When it comes to nation building, the Department of Defense wants power, but not responsibility. Same thing with the State Department, and neither Defense or State wants to take orders from USAID.

By giving the key people in a PRT training, together, before they ship out, problems can be discovered and worked out. The training also gets everyone familiar with their team members, and enables the team to get working sooner, and more effectively.

 


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