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Handbook 07-34
September 2007

Chapter 3


Focus on Stability 

As stated in the previous chapter, the missions and objectives of the provincial reconstruction team (PRT) are based on the environment in which the PRT is operating. However, stability must be a key aspect of any PRT mission statement. Though context and constraints of the environment remain dynamic, only by achieving a specific level of stability will the PRT be able to “exit” and more traditional actors take its place. (See Annex A for a discussion on stability.) 

Fill the Gaps 

PRTs were created, in part, because of the lack of local capacity within government and traditional governing bodies, remote populations, and geographic areas that are politically unstable yet vital. As local governance structures, traditional authorities, intergovernmental organizations, the private sector, and other entities gain capabilities and effectiveness, the responsibilities of the PRT will shift and potentially shrink to mentoring, advising, and training. In the interim, the PRT will do everything that is not being done by these other entities to advance stability, short of being the government. It is extremely important to link all PRT actions to governing bodies and local institutions as much as possible. Balance is the key; it may be preferable to have a local solution that is less optimal than a PRT solution. 

Coordinate and Integrate 

As host nation governing bodies gain capacity and effectiveness, the PRT should cede responsibility for what has to be done. Similarly, the PRT should seek to create conditions that allow these other entities to continue to increase their capacity, effectiveness, and presence. To do this effectively and efficiently, the PRT should coordinate and integrate with the goals, plans, strategies, and activities of all stakeholders at all levels of government, civil society, private sector, traditional governance structures, intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). At times, this process may conflict with the desire to achieve quick results and successes. 

Focus on Effects not Outputs 

As with any diplomatic, defense, or development institution, there is a danger that PRTs may fall prey to pressure to deliver immediate but inappropriate proxy indicators of progress, including number of projects completed or quantity of funds expended. Perhaps what is not so clear is that some indicators that are considered effects within the development community are really only outputs for a PRT. For example, the development community may consider an increase in literacy or a decrease in child mortality to be an effect. However, for the PRT, these are outputs that are only important in so much as they forward the ultimate effect of stability. 

Unity of Effort 

Unity of effort requires coordination and cooperation among government departments and agencies, with NGOs and IGOs, among nations in any alliance or coalition, and with the host nation. Unity of effort in an operation occurs vertically and horizontally for all involved chains of command. Its source is the nation’s will, and it flows to individuals at the point of activity. Without unity of effort, the probability of success for any endeavor is diminished. 

Within the PRT there are often various agencies with differing mandates who are generally comfortable with their way of doing business. There is considerable potential for friction and competing agendas. If not directly addressed and managed by the PRT leadership and its higher management authority, the results may hinder the process, delay completion of objectives, or contribute to total failure of the mission. 

The integration and alignment of civilian and military efforts is crucial to successful stability and reconstruction operations. PRTs must focus on supporting the host nation’s government (local and national) and the populace across the stabilization and reconstruction sectors. This support requires balancing the measured use of force with an emphasis on nonmilitary programs. 

Political, social, and economic programs are most commonly and appropriately associated with civilian organizations and expertise. However, effective implementation of these programs is more important than who performs the tasks. Civilian organizations bring expertise that complements that of military forces. At the same time, civilian capabilities cannot be employed effectively without the security that military forces provide. 

Effective PRT leaders understand the interdependent relationship of all participants, military and civilian. PRT leaders must orchestrate their efforts to achieve unity of effort and coherent results. If adequate civilian capacity is not available, military forces may be required to fill the gap. Reconstruction programs for political, social, and economic well-being are essential to achieving stability and developing the local capacity that commands popular support. To effectively work together, PRT planners should consider the following: 

  • Know the roles and capabilities of U.S., IGOs, and host nation partners. 
  • Include other participants, particularly host nation partners, in planning at every level. 
  • Support civilian efforts, including those of NGOs and IGOs. 
  • Conduct, facilitate, or participate in political, social, informational, and economic programs. 

Continuity of Operations 

Continuity of operations is the degree to which there is continuous conduct of functions, tasks, or duties necessary to accomplish a mission. It includes the functions and duties of the team leader, as well as the supporting functions and duties performed by members of the team. 

PRTs can require a significant amount of time to effect change within an area or province. The various agencies involved in providing personnel as team members must ensure that there are not gaps in functional coverage or a wholesale turnover of personnel over long deployments. Either of these actions will result in the PRT losing valuable understanding of the environment and could affect relationships with the local government and the people as a whole. Though not required, it is highly encouraged that leadership positions (team leader and deputy team leader) have their changeovers as far apart as possible to ensure continuity of interface with local leaders. 


The components of a PRT are adaptable to any situation, from immediate post conflict with no governance structure (PRTs will not act as a government structure) to an unstable but developed structure requiring assistance. This flexibility is essential for PRTs to be applicable across the full spectrum of potential situations requiring interagency and multidisciplinary coordination and cooperation. Flexibility in the PRT framework facilitates scalability of management and response activities. 

Guiding Principles 

The primary activities of the PRT are to conceive, plan, coordinate, and/or execute reconstruction and initial development projects and programs. Though PRTs are not development institutions per se, PRTs should adhere to the following development communities’ principles to the extent possible: 

  • Ownership. Build on the leadership, participation, and commitment of a country and its people. 
  • Capacity building. Strengthen local institutions, transfer technical skills, and promote appropriate policies. 
  • Sustainability. Design programs to ensure their impact endures. 
  • Selectivity. Allocate resources based on need, local commitment, and foreign policy interests. 
  • Assessment. Conduct careful research, adapt best practices, and design for local conditions. 
  • Results. Focus resources to achieve clearly defined, measurable, and strategically focused objectives. 
  • Partnership. Collaborate closely with governments, communities, donors, NGOs, the private sector, IGOs, and universities. 
  • Flexibility. Adjust to changing conditions, take advantage of opportunities, and maximize efficiency. 
  • Accountability. Design accountability and transparency into systems and build effective checks and balances to guard against corruption.2 


In addition to the above guiding principles, the PRT should: 

  • Focus on improving stability. 
  • Operate as an integrated military-civilian organization. 
  • Work to a common purpose or end state with unity of effort. 
  • Lead from behind, ensuring host nation ownership. Promote host nation primacy and legitimacy. (Remember and respect that the operational pace will be that of the host nation.) 
  • Actively engage with the governor, host nation central government officials, the local communities and population through provincial councils, provincial development committees, and other established and traditional bodies. 
  • Facilitate the visibility of the host nation government’s presence in the province by assisting official visits to remote districts and villages (e.g., transportation and communications). 
  • Promise only what you can deliver: manage expectations (under-promise and over-deliver). 
  • Engage in programs or projects that your PRT rotation can complete or handover. However, avoid focusing on only short-term projects at the expense of long-range strategies. 
  • Plan sustainability at the outset. 
  • Ensure that projects do not duplicate the work of others. 
  • Ensure that interventions at the provincial level support the host nation’s national processes and development plan or strategy. 
  • Lay the foundations for long-term sustainable changes. 
  • Be committed to consulting and/or working with international partners, such as IGOs and NGOs. 
  • Be aware of and respect civil-military sensitivities—lives may depend on it. 
  • Have a finite lifespan, linked to an end state of improved stability. 


2 Andrew S. Natsios, “The Nine Principles of Reconstruction and Development,” Parameters, Autumn 2005.


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