Peacekeeping: Something For Everyone


April 19, 2007: As the terrorists (both Sunni and Shia) get shut down in more parts of Iraq, it's been possible to expand reconstruction efforts. This can be seen in the expansion of the PRT (Provincial Reconstruction Team) program. Ten more PRTs are being formed this year, which will double the number in action.

The United States pioneered the use of PRTs in Afghanistan. There, the PRTs evolved from the JRTs (Joint Reconstruction Teams) established by U.S. Army Special Forces in 2002. By last year, there were seventeen PRTs 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 Interior Ministry.

Earlier American PRTs were 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 is basically police work (against criminal gangs and unruly local warlords). These security troops often end up assisting in reconstruction as well. The Iraqis 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.)

The ten new PRTs in Iraq will be led by a State Department official. The State Department asked for this, but there are doubts whether the State Department can provide the required number of personnel. In the past, 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, often 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.

There is now a PRT training program, which gives non-military members a month or two of preparation, before they ship out. During this training, 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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