Important lessons for current and future U.S. peace and stability operations can be found in the experiences of Americans who served in Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in Afghanistan. PRTs are small, joint civilian-military organizations whose mission is to promote governance, security, and reconstruction throughout the country.

Summary

  • Important lessons for current and future U.S. peace and stability operations can be found in the experiences of Americans who served in Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in Afghanistan. PRTs are small, joint civilian-military organizations whose mission is to promote governance, security, and reconstruction throughout the country.
  • In June 2005, the United States led thirteen PRTs and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) directed nine. This multinational program was characterized by an emphasis on flexibility, a proliferation of national models, and an ad hoc approach to security and development.
  • The U.S. model featured a complement of seventy-nine American military and three civilian government representatives. The U.S. PRTs stressed governance, force protection, and quick impact development projects to "win hearts and minds."
  • The PRT emphasis on governance translated into supporting the respective provincial governors.
  • Security was limited to self-protection, providing a security presence, and assisting Afghan forces.
  • Reconstruction projects suffered from a lack of coordination and oversight. Military involvement in development brought criticism from relief agencies that claimed it put them at risk by blurring the distinction between combatants and humanitarian workers.
  • In the view of many PRT veterans, the entire multinational PRT program would benefit from an agreed concept of operations and an effective central coordinating authority. The U.S. PRTs would profit from interagency delimitation of civilian and military roles and improved civilian agency staffing, funding, and administrative support.
  • PRT veterans believe the addition of USAID representatives and better coordination with Afghan national development plans improved U.S. PRT reconstruction efforts. Rapidly disbursing long-term funding sources available to civilian representatives would rationalize and speed reconstruction efforts, which should focus on security-related infrastructure.
  • PRT veterans also argue that PRTs are primarily military organizations; thus, better suited for performing security-related tasks. PRTs should concentrate on supporting Afghan security sector reform and providing a security presence in contested areas.

About the Report

This report is the product of the United States Institute of Peace's Afghanistan Experience Project. It is based on extensive interviews conducted with American and foreign officials, soldiers, and representatives of nongovernmental organizations that worked directly with Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Afghanistan. It also reflects interviews conducted with a broad range of contacts during the author's visit to Afghanistan in June 2005. The report discusses lessons identified by those who served in Afghanistan. It is intended as a training aid for developing programs that prepare American personnel for service in peace and stability operations.

Robert M. Perito, Coordinator of the Afghanistan Experience Project at the U.S. Institute of Peace, prepared this report. The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training conducted the interviews under a contract with the Institute.

The views expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect views of the United States Institute of Peace, which does not advocate specific policy positions.

Related Publications

Afghan Peace Talks: Prisoner Release Paves Way for Direct Negotiations

Afghan Peace Talks: Prisoner Release Paves Way for Direct Negotiations

Thursday, August 13, 2020

By: Dipali Mukhopadhyay; Johnny Walsh; Scott Smith

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday said that his government would release the last batch of Taliban prisoners, ostensibly removing the final hurdle to direct negotiations with the insurgent group. Intra-Afghan negotiations were originally slated for March 10 as part of the U.S.-Taliban deal signed in late February, but were delayed due to disagreements over prisoner releases. The Afghan government and Taliban had committed to releasing 5,000 and 1,000 prisoners respectively, but the final 400 Taliban prisoners had been accused or convicted of major crimes, including murder. Ghani only made the decision to release those prisoners after he called for a consultative assembly, or loya jirga, to advise on the decision. USIP’s Afghanistan experts explain why Ghani convened the loya jirga, what to expect in the early stages of talks, and what role the United States can play.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Peace Processes

Afghanistan: Can Central Asia Help Spur Peace with the Taliban?

Afghanistan: Can Central Asia Help Spur Peace with the Taliban?

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

By: Adam Gallagher

Afghanistan’s peace process could be taking a major step forward in August with the potential commencement of intra-Afghan talks, said the U.S. chief negotiator on Friday. “This is an important moment for Afghanistan and for the region—perhaps a defining moment,” said Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad. Peace in Afghanistan would redound to the benefit of the entire region. As the peace process stumbles forward, one critical but often overlooked element is the role of Afghanistan’s Central Asian neighbors.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Peace Processes

Legislature and Legislative Elections in Afghanistan: An Analysis

Legislature and Legislative Elections in Afghanistan: An Analysis

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

By: A. Farid Tookhy

Afghanistan’s newest Wolesi Jirga—the lower house of the National Assembly—boasts a younger and more educated membership than those elected in either 2005 or 2010. Its representativeness, however, is uneven and problematic. This report offers a comparative profile of the Wolesi Jirgas elected in 2005, 2010, and 2018, highlighting issues salient to the reforms Afghanistan needs to undertake if it is to hold credible national elections that yield truly representative elected institutions.

Type: Special Report

Democracy & Governance

View All Publications