Lessons Learned: Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT)


As of March 2008, 31 PRTs are operating in Iraq with three led by Coalition partners (UK, Italy and South Korea.)


PRTs are small, civilian-military units that assist provincial and local governments to govern more effectively and deliver essential services in Iraq and Afghanistan. They combine representatives from civilian government agencies, contactors, and force protection units to enable civilians to work under insecure conditions. PRTs have a mandate to improve governance, support economic development, and expand security. PRTs vary greatly in size, organization, functions, and command structure. Activities vary enormously and are heavily influenced by personalities, local conditions and lead-nation priorities.

Afghanistan: PRTs were first introduced in Afghanistan in 2002. Currently, there are 26 PRTs in Afghanistan; all are subordinate to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). The U.S. leads twelve of these PRTs; fourteen are led NATO and Coalition partners. In Afghanistan, U.S. PRTs have about 80 personnel, are led by the U.S. military and have representatives from the State Department, USAID and the Department of Agriculture.

Navy Cmdr. Larry Legree, right, with interpreter Noor Mohamed during opening of a PRT-built bridge along the Pech Valley road.

Iraq #1: In November 2005, the Secretary of State introduced PRTs into Iraq. The first ten American PRTs were led by State Department, staffed primarily by civilian agencies and operated out of forward operating bases, relying on the U.S. military for logistical and security support.

Iraq #2: In 2007, as part of the President Bush's "New Way Forward," ten additional PRTs were introduced into Baghdad and Anbar provinces. These embedded PRTs (e-PRTs) were led by State Department officers, composed of 8-12 members and operated within U.S. military brigade combat teams. They worked with municipal and district leaders.

As of March 2008, 31 PRTs are operating in Iraq with three led by Coalition partners (UK, Italy and South Korea.)

PRTs attempt to promote "whole of government" approaches to security and development challenges in the field. However, beyond broad mission statements, there is no formal U.S. interagency agreement on PRT goals, objectives, concept of operations or organizational structure, nor is there agreement on these issues with our allies. The effort at interagency coordination is primarily reflected (to various degrees) in capitals. For the U.S., no executive-level agency has been tasked with the authority to oversee and coordinate all interagency PRT activities. It remains to be seen if the PRT concept will be institutionalized for future missions.

Links to PDFs:
USIP Special Report, Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Iraq, Robert Perito
USIP Special Report, The U.S. Experience with Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Afghanistan: Lessons Identified, Robert Perito
Woodrow Wilson School, Provincial Reconstruction Teams: Lessons and Recommendations
HASC, Agency Stovepipes vs. Strategic Agility: Lessons We Need to Learn from the Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Iraq and Afghanistan