Small Wars Journal

PRTs: How Do We Know They Work?

Provincial Reconstruction Teams: How Do We Know They Work? - Dr. Carter Malkasian and Dr. Gerald Meyerle, Strategic Studies Institute

Over the past 6 years, provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs) have played a growing role in the U.S. counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan. PRTs are one of several organizations working on reconstruction there, along with civilian development agencies, including the U.S. Agency for International Development, numerous nongovernmental organizations, and the Afghan government's National Solidarity Program. Perhaps unsurprisingly, something of a debate has emerged over whether PRTs are needed. The authors argue that civilian reconstruction agencies cannot do the same job as the PRTs. While these agencies remain essential for long-term economic and political development, the PRTs conduct reconstruction in ways that help create stability in the short term. Absent the PRTs, the "build" in clear-hold-build efforts deemed essential to effective counterinsurgency would fall flat. Based on over 2 months of field research in 2007 and 2 months in 2008 by a CNA team with 4 different PRTs—Khost, Kunar, Ghazni, and Nuristan—plus interviews with the leadership of 10 others, the authors recommend that the United States give the PRTs the lead role in reconstruction activities that accompany any surge of military forces into Afghanistan.

Provincial Reconstruction Teams: How Do We Know They Work?


A solid, well written piece. As the DOS PRT Country Director in Afghanistan, 2007-2008, I can agree entirely with this paper and it's conclusions. I supervised personnel in all 4 of the above PRTs (and 15 other US and non-US) in Afghanistan. I have also had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Carter Malkasian when he was at PRT Asadabad. Additionally, I was able to participate in a number of the opening ceremonies on the Pech river road, carried out by Larry Legree (now the CO of the Mesa Verde) and his PRT.

As we are now moving forward with the "civilian surge" as part of the new strategy, PRTs will become an even more important component of our overall approach in Afghanistan.