Provincial Reconstruction Teams

Read the full policy report, "Provincial Reconstruction Teams: Lessons and Recommendations", published by Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy in January 2008. I was a contributing author.

Executive Summary

There are 50 Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs): 25 in Afghanistan under the authority of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization International Security Assistance Force (NATO/ISAF), and 25 in Iraq. Of these, the United States leads 12 in Afghanistan and 22 in Iraq. PRTs have become an integral part of peacekeeping and stability operations; but they have also been criticized for their mixed effectiveness, over-emphasis on military objectives and priorities, failure to effectively coordinate and communicate with the UN and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and differences in staffing and mission.

To date, there has been no comprehensive review of PRT models to evaluate effectiveness or address shortcomings. This report seeks to answer three questions in order to begin filling the knowledge gap:

  • Should the United States and coalition partners continue to use PRTs?
  • Are PRTs achieving the goals for which they are funded?
  • What are the best practices of countries that sponsor and contribute to PRTs?

Because there is very little standardization of mission and operations across PRTs, we used the following assumptions as the basis for our analysis and research.

  • Using a variety of models, missions and functions, PRTs initiate progress on reconstruction, security, and development in post-conflict environments.
  • The PRT concept is part of a larger set of responses to post-conflict challenges.
  • PRTs are part of an evolutionary process of civil-military relations and interagency cooperation.

In the four sections that make up the body of the report, we look at the major issues that arise for PRTs, from their management and funding in contributing countries to the coordination of activities in the field. These four sections are: Politics and Bureaucracy; Civil-Military Relations; Activities and Relationships; and Evaluating Impact. We conclude with recommendations that distill the most relevant action points for the United States government and other countries operating PRTs. Our conclusions are based on broad lessons gathered from research and interviews with stakeholders in the United States, Canada, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Lithuania, and the United Kingdom. More detailed findings specific to each country can be found in Annexes A through F. A glossary of acronyms is included for reference.

Despite the absence of concrete metrics and unity of purpose, PRTs have reported enough positive feedback to suggest that sponsoring countries should continue funding them and expending energy and resources toward their improvement. However, there are limitations to their capabilities, and it is increasingly important for policy makers to clearly define PRT objectives. This will help both to guide prioritization of activities in the field and to lay the groundwork for the creation of impact-based metrics to evaluate performance.