In January 2007, President Bush announced that the United States would double the number of Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs), small civilian-military units that assist provincial and local governments to govern effectively and deliver essential services, as part of his plan for a "New Way Forward" in Iraq. This report examines the U.S. experience with PRTs in Iraq, notes shortcomings, and suggests ways they could be more effective.

Summary

  • Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) are small civilian-military units that assist provincial and local governments in Iraq to govern effectively and deliver essential services.
  • In January 2007 President Bush announced that the United States would double the number of PRTs as part of his plan for a "New Way Forward." Ten new PRTs will be embedded with Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs) in Baghdad, Anbar, and Babil.
  • The new PRTs will differ significantly from the ten original PRTs set up in Iraq in November 2005. Led by the State Department, most of the original PRTs are located on U.S. military bases and rely on the military for security and logistical support. Both types of PRTs in Iraq differ in staffing and organization from PRTs in Afghanistan.
  • Start-up of the PRT program in Iraq has been troubled by interagency differences over funding, staffing, and administrative support and by the overriding challenge of providing security. Embedding the new PRTs with BCTs should help overcome many of these problems.
  • Despite the problems, PRTs provide a U.S. civilian presence in areas that would not be served otherwise. Participants in PRTs believe they are having a positive effect.

About the Report

 

Members of a provincial reconstruction team in Afghanistan unload boxes of humanitarian assistance and supplies.
Members of a provincial reconstruction team in Afghanistan unload boxes of humanitarian assistance and supplies. (Photo Courtesy Third Army/United States Army Central/Coalition Forces Land Component Command)

Getting U.S. civilian and military officials to work together effectively during post-conflict interventions is an enormous challenge. In Afghanistan and Iraq the United States has experimented with "Provincial Reconstruction Teams," which combine civilian and military personnel. PRTs are intended to assist with security, governance, and reconstruction by enabling civilians to work in insecure areas. This report examines the U.S. experience with PRTs in Iraq, notes shortcomings, and suggests ways they could be more effective. The report is based on statements by panelists at a public forum held at the Institute on February 14, 2007, and on interviews conducted by the author with government agencies and commercial contract firms that participate in the PRT program.

Robert M. Perito is a senior program officer at the United States Institute of Peace. From 1967 to 1995 he was a foreign service officer with the State Department, retiring with the rank of minister counselor. From 1995 to 2001, he served as deputy director of the Justice Department's International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program.

Related Publications

New Talks Could Help Iraq Find Room to Stabilize Amid Crises

New Talks Could Help Iraq Find Room to Stabilize Amid Crises

Thursday, April 8, 2021

By: James Rupert

As Iraq’s government struggles to build stability in the face of economic decline, COVID, political protest and periodic violence, it may see new hope for some maneuvering room in its narrow political space between the United States and Iran. One day after U.S. and Iranian officials agreed through intermediaries to work toward restoring the 2015 accord over Iran’s nuclear program, American and Iraqi diplomats announced an intent to remove U.S. combat forces from Iraq. Both initiatives face deep uncertainties. But if successful they could widen Iraq’s difficult path toward peace.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global Policy; Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue

Struggle for Sinjar: Iraqis’ Views on Security in the Disputed District

Struggle for Sinjar: Iraqis’ Views on Security in the Disputed District

Monday, April 5, 2021

By: Osama Gharizi

Home to Iraq’s beleaguered Yazidi (Ezidi) community, Sinjar has long been caught amid tension between Iraq’s federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), leading to severe underdevelopment in the district. Compounding Sinjar’s historical struggles, the district also witnessed the Islamic State group’s (ISIS) egregious crimes against the Yazidis. In October 2020, the Iraqi government and KRG announced an agreement on Sinjar that attempts to resolve two pressing factors undermining its stability: the multiplicity of security actors and the existence of two rival administrations for the district, one that is unofficial and backed by the PMF and the other that is official and pro-KRG. As implementation of the deal lags, it’s important to consider how Sinjar’s residents perceive the agreement’s ability to address the district’s security and governance challenges.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance

U.S., Iraqi Envoys Call for Continued Partnership 18 Years After Saddam’s Fall

U.S., Iraqi Envoys Call for Continued Partnership 18 Years After Saddam’s Fall

Thursday, March 25, 2021

By: Adam Gallagher

Eighteen years after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, Iraq is still in the midst of a rocky transition, beset by governance, economic, social and security challenges. With the Biden administration setting its sights on sweeping portfolio of domestic and foreign policy issues, some fear the United States will lose focus on Iraq. But in remarks on Tuesday, the top American diplomat in Baghdad vowed continued American engagement. Ahead of a pivotal year for Iraq, “The United States is resolute in its commitment to supporting [a] stable, sovereign, democratic and prosperous Iraq,” said U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Matthew Tueller.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance; Fragility & Resilience

Ninewa Plains and Western Ninewa: Sustainable Returns and Stabilization Efforts (Arabic)

Ninewa Plains and Western Ninewa: Sustainable Returns and Stabilization Efforts (Arabic)

Monday, March 22, 2021

By: Henriette Johansen; Kamaran Palani; Kristin Perry; Dlawer Ala’Aldeen

The aim of this report is to map previous and current initiatives undertaken by local, provincial and national governments, civil society organizations, international NGOs and other actors to address barriers to stabilization and the return of displaced persons from Ninewa governorate, particularly Ninewa Plains and Western Ninewa. The report also identifies shortcomings, failures and gaps that constrain return processes and long-term stabilization.

Type: Report

Democracy & Governance; Reconciliation

View All Publications