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

The Current Situation in Afghanistan

The Current Situation in Afghanistan

Thursday, March 25, 2021

In February 2020 the U.S. and the Taliban signed an agreement that paved the way for the first direct talks between the Taliban and representatives of the Afghan republic since 2001. This nascent peace process has sparked hope for a political settlement to the four-decade-long conflict, although slow progress and increasing levels of violence threaten to derail the process before it gains momentum.

Type: Fact Sheet

Revitalizing Afghanistan’s Ministry of Finance

Revitalizing Afghanistan’s Ministry of Finance

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

By: William Byrd

Revitalizing Afghanistan’s badly damaged Ministry of Finance is critical for the state’s survival today and will be equally important during a peace process or under any interim or power-sharing arrangement. Without curbs on political interference and corruption at the ministry, Afghanistan will be hard pressed to ensure that aid pledges made at November’s Geneva international conference materialize.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Economics & Environment; Democracy & Governance

“No Going Backward”: Afghanistan’s Post–Peace Accord Security Sector

“No Going Backward”: Afghanistan’s Post–Peace Accord Security Sector

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

By: Annie Pforzheimer; Andrew Hyde; Jason Criss Howk

Failure to plan realistically for needed changes in Afghanistan’s security sector following a peace settlement—and failure to start phasing in changes now—will lead to post-settlement instability. This report examines the particular challenges Afghanistan will face, with examples from the climate following peace settlements in other parts of the world offering insight into what may occur and possibilities for response.

Type: Peaceworks

Justice, Security & Rule of Law

New Evidence: To Build Peace, Include Women from the Start

New Evidence: To Build Peace, Include Women from the Start

Thursday, March 11, 2021

By: Veronique Dudouet; Andreas Schädel

In the 20 years since governments declared it imperative to include women’s groups and their demands in peace processes, experience and research continue to show that this principle strengthens peace agreements and helps prevent wars from re-igniting. Yet our inclusion of women has been incomplete and, in some ways, poorly informed. Now a study of recent peace processes in Colombia, Mali, Afghanistan and Myanmar offers new guidance on how to shape women’s roles. A critical lesson is that we must ensure this inclusion from the start.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Gender; Peace Processes

View All Publications