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Handbook 11-16
February 2011

Annex C - Lessons Learned and Best Practices

Definition of Lessons Learned and Best Practices

Lessons learned and best practices are actions that provincial reconstruction team (PRT) members have employed to overcome situation-specific obstacles and achieve a desired outcome. These should not be interpreted as "one-size-fits-all" solutions or doctrines. What works in one place and time may not work in another place and time. Rather, these are actions that have been effective in the past and that should be considered by future PRT members. Deployed personnel must use their own discretion to determine whether such actions or suggestions would be useful in their particular circumstances. The following sections within this annex may also prove helpful:

  • Section 1. PRT best practices indicators from the 2010 International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Joint Command PRT Conference.
  • Section 2. Summaries of best practices from 2009 interviews:
    • Interaction with locals.
    • Planning.
    • Funding.
    • Civil-military relations.
    • Clarifying the mission.
    • Continuity of effort.
  • Section 3. Lessons learned from the Center for Army Lessons Learned (CALL) archives:
    • Develop, encourage, and influence local leaders.
    • Engagement of government officials under difficult conditions.
    • Prepare PRT personnel for key leader engagements.
    • Dealing with corruption.
    • Assist in building medical capacity.
    • Assist in building a competent building contracting and labor force.
    • Communicating to the populace with local media.
    • PRT relations with the embassy.
    • Sharing information among the PRT staff.
    • Long-term planning.
    • Manage projects.
    • Coordinate capacity building with other units/organizations in the province.
    • Extend PRT reach to outlying/remote districts.
    • PRT security.
    • United Nations (U.N.) presence in Afghanistan.
    • Interaction with allied-led PRTs.
    • Interaction with nongovernment organizations (NGOs).

Section 1. PRT Best Practices Indicators1


The purpose is to present a set of indicators governing PRTs' best-practices aimed at further strengthening Afghan ownership. The PRTs' role in supporting the promotion of long-term stability in Afghanistan must take into account five factors, which were nonexistent at the inception of the PRT concept:

  • The launch of the Afghan National Development Strategy (ANDS).
  • The appointment of the Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG) as the leading Afghan government agency on PRT-related issues.
  • The endorsement of the Afghanistan Social Outreach Program (ASOP), addressing existing governance gaps at the district level.
  • A sharpened coordinating role for the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) with respect to the overall international assistance effort in Afghanistan.
  • A strengthened role for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) civilian representative, following the NATO Summit in Bucharest of April 2008, to enhance coherence of PRTs efforts, in close coordination and consultation with Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA), UNAMA, and ISAF.

Best Practices Indicators

Align PRT activities with the Afghan National Development Strategy and provincial development plans (PDPs)

The ANDS is composed of 18 sector strategies and five cross-cutting themes, each of which has its own structure of management, implementation, and coordination. Full alignment of PRT activities with the ANDS will require that they take full account of these sectoral frameworks in planning, implementation, and evaluation phases of their capacity-building and reconstruction and development activities. This process will improve the aid effectiveness and sustainability of PRT initiatives. When PRTs work within fully articulated national programs, they are virtually guaranteed to enhance the authority and institutional capacity of government. Such alignment should provide for appropriate, and even enhanced, roles for civil society and private sector implementers. But it must reflect the priorities set and pursued by government at national and sub-national level, and the roles and responsibilities assigned to provincial authorities under the new Sub-National Governance Policy developed under IDLG leadership in 2008 and set for cabinet approval in early 2009. This will ensure that PRT activities contribute to a consolidation of the state-building process in a balanced way and on a country-wide scale by meeting specific needs on security, governance, and social/economic development framed at the local and national levels and reflected both in the PDPs and in the ANDS. Three important premises must apply: a continuous interface between PRT personnel and provincial and district governors; the consolidation of PRT relations with provincial development committees (PDCs), chaired by the provincial governor; and PRTs' sharpened coordination with regard to reporting their developmental activities. In places where PRTs cannot assist in meeting the highest needs as prioritized by the PDCs, they should offer a minimum catalogue of capabilities to meet the specific requirements by the PDCs.

Strengthen Afghan ownership through PRT activities

A full-fledged involvement of PDCs in the planning and implementation of PRT activities is essential to strengthen Afghan ownership. The provincial administration should to the greatest extent possible be involved in all phases of project implementation, including contracting. They should reflect national standards and procedures for procurement under existing laws and regulations. In particular, quality assurance and quality control should primarily be performed by beneficiaries. This approach would help to strengthen the footprint and decision-making prerogatives of Afghan sub-national institutions and clarifies the temporary character of PRTs. PRTs are in fact geared, ultimately, towards their progressive disappearance from the scene as conditions for sustainable Afghan-led governance at the sub-national level are gradually established. Specific examples of PRT activities involving Afghan partners and personnel already exist, including with respect to labor-intensive infrastructural projects, roads construction, and canals rehabilitation. There is a need to build upon this and make PRT contributions more focused to bolster Afghan institutional capacities at the provincial and district levels. This approach would also provide more impetus to the growth of the Afghan economy (through a renewed focus on local procurement) and would create conditions for reducing a sense of dependence on an open-ended commitment of external assistance. In particular, PRTs should be encouraged to engage local firms and NGOs and use local manpower from the province.

Endeavor towards more long-term and sustainable activities

A conceptualization of PRT activities in accordance with the timelines established in the PDPs creates the conditions for ensuring a continuity of efforts across successive PRT rotations. This will ultimately entail a progressive shift of mindset from funding short-term projects (usually linked to one PRT rotation timeline) to multiphased programs, particularly national ones, where Afghan counterparts become involved across all stages of planning, execution, and monitoring. Activities towards the consolidation of this trend already exist or are being planned in different sectors, including - among others - agriculture, water sanitation, energy, and police and prisons reforms. National programs to be supported by PRTs include the National Solidarity Program, the Microfinance Investment Support Facility for Afghanistan, the National Area-Based Development Program, the Water and Sanitation Program, and ASOP. In each of these programs, it is optimal for PRTs to play an enabling and supporting role for national implementing partners operating under government leadership. Agriculture, energy, governance, and police are new government priorities agreed during the ANDS launch at the Paris conference in June 2008, for which new national programs are already at the concept, design, and planning stages. A major focus should be directed towards supporting PDPs as they reflect priorities of local population in the province in question. Moreover, PRTs should be encouraged, to the extent possible, to provide contributions through pooled funds.

Strengthen governance through enhancement of capacity building at the provincial and district levels

Governance is absolutely crucial to achieving current objectives for stability and development. Specific initiatives are already ongoing in different realms, including training courses for police officers, preparation courses for judges and lawyers, capacity-building initiatives for civil servants, and courses for the development of vocational skills. PRTs should leverage on this and make capacity building a critical component of their activities and identify a point of contact at the PRT to this effect. In this regard, they should link their programs to already existing frameworks at the provincial and district levels, including, among others, the IDLG five-year strategic plan, ASOP, Focused District Development, and the Afghanistan Sub-national Governance Program run by the U.N. Development Programme. Ultimately, there should be an integrated public administration reform, capacity building, and governance plan for each province, developed under the authority of the governor with the support of the IDLG, Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission, line ministries, and international actors. Overall, a steady focus on capacity-building promotes the perception of the Afghan government as exerting leadership in the reconstruction and development effort, helps the consolidation of the institution-building process, and reduces the leverage of local power-brokers. A fundamental premise to achieve this objective and ensure that capacity-building at the PRT level is carried out coherently is to strengthen aid coordination at the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board level (including the Governance and Economic and Social Development Standing Committees) as well as the Provincial Development Committee framework, under GIRoA's leadership with primary support from UNAMA.

Bolster cooperation with different actors in the provinces where PRTs are present, in close coordination with ISAF Regional Commands

Systematic cooperation, coordination, and information-sharing with other national and international partners, in particular UNAMA and IDLG, ensure mutual situational awareness and reduce the likelihood of a duplication of efforts. Various examples exist of regular meetings and thematic working groups/clusters held at PRT sites or at UNAMA or government buildings. In particular, UNAMA should be invited to internal project meetings and also to meetings between PRTs and provincial administrations. Cooperation among various actors should continue and further evolve across different provinces.

Make military and civilian efforts mutually reinforcing by strengthening PRT civilian components

The military and civilian components of PRTs ought to concentrate their efforts in those domains where they can bring their respective added value - the military in providing security and building the capacity of Afghan National Security Forces and the civilian in exerting supporting efforts to boost economic and social development and bolster good governance. There are several accounts where such a division of labor is already being consolidated as a result of more civilians being integrated within PRTs. Overall, however, a further enhancement of civilian personnel is required, particularly in more stabilized areas, to support the Afghan sub-national administration with regard to developmental and capacity building. Civilian presence is also essential to guarantee a systematic quality control of programs conducted in a given PRT area.

Extend tour length for PRT personnel

As recent experience shows, longer tour lengths guarantee better continuity of efforts and render Afghan-international partnership more sustainable across various PRT turnovers. Ideally, core PRT staff should stay in the country for at least one year and be rotated individually, phased over time, rather than a whole new team replacing its predecessor team. This would provide for much greater continuity.

PRT support to build up Afghan capacities in disaster relief assistance

Afghanistan is a disaster-prone country: floods, earthquakes, drought, landslides, and avalanches are all common. The primary responsibility for disaster relief rests with the government and then the humanitarian system led by the U.N., the Red Crescent Movement, and NGOs. However, PRTs can provide in extremis support when requested by the government or the U.N. In such instances, PRTs should provide humanitarian assistance to the Provincial Disaster Management Committees (PDMCs) and not to individual departments or the Afghan National Security Forces, and should only distribute humanitarian aid directly to beneficiaries as a last resort. The Guidelines for the Interaction and Coordination of Humanitarian Actors and Military Actors in Afghanistan (approved on 20 May 2008 and endorsed by the ISAF commander) provide specific guidance in this regard. Some PRTs are already considering programs devoted to increase the capacity of local offices of the Afghan National Disaster Management Authority. This is to be encouraged and should continue through close coordination with the U.N., which has an ongoing national project to build Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority capacity. In addition, the PRTs should also help and build up capacity of PDMCs, which exist within the provincial administrations and function under the governor's supervision.

Promote awareness and respect of Afghan culture and traditions within PRTs

PRT activities should reflect in their conceptualization and execution the understanding and respect for the local history, culture, religion, and traditions. Afghans are fiercely proud of their history and committed to their religion. PRT staff should enter Afghanistan with a full knowledge of the country and its culture, including the specific profile and traditions of the province where they are posted. They should also be sensitive to the way in which Islamic practice and tradition in Afghanistan is a key component of identity and a major potential force for stabilization and peace. In poppy-free provinces, it is consistently the incompatibility of drug production and trafficking with Islamic faith that is cited (along with community decision) as the decisive factor in ending cultivation. Ulemas, imams and other mullahs can be mobilized to similar effect in their fields, as can other traditional leaders at village, district, and provincial levels. Success in this area requires accurate country and local knowledge, including proficiency in local languages and a willingness to participate in local traditions. PRT personnel should build upon this to reinforce their characterization as instruments to assist the consolidation of Afghan ownership.

Strengthen human rights' awareness through support to the judicial sector reform

This is and will remain an essential component of PRT activities, as it is aimed at strengthening the legitimacy of Afghan institutions at the sub-national level. There is a wide array of human rights awareness programs developed within training initiatives for police officers, civil servants, and judiciary officials. Moreover, rehabilitation of government infrastructure (including courthouses and detention centers) also plays an important role in this respect, as it helps to create the conditions to meet international human rights' standards.

Section 2. Summary of Best Practices

The comments are taken from interviews with Department of State (DOS); Department of Agriculture (USDA); U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID); and U.S. Air Force, Army, and Navy personnel who returned from PRTs in Afghanistan in 2009.

Interaction with Locals

Set up a contracting office attached to the governor's residence

One effective best practice that we used was to set up a contracting office attached to the governor's residence. I highly recommend this to other PRTs if they aren't doing it. What you can do as a PRT is do all your bidding and contracting and the things you do that support development work in that office, but you do it discreetly. You go in there, Afghan contractors come in, and you sit down and talk with them within the governor's residence. It reinforces the governor as the one in charge and allows these people to meet with you in some degree of privacy, so that the Taliban watching doesn't see the contractors meeting with you. That's a good thing.

Make sure the local population sees local government officials as responsible for development projects

These are the kinds of things that he would welcome, and usually the governor was very good about doing ground breaking ceremonies and ribbon cutting ceremonies for projects that we funded and oversaw. We would stay out of the picture, so he got the benefit of all that. So I think we were on relatively the same page, development-wise.

Provide funding for effective local leaders who need small amounts to gain favor with the population

He did have a small stipend from Kabul to help him do the kinds of things that a traditional Pashtun leader would do, like when you have a meeting giving out turbans or Korans or other little gifts to the people that you're meeting with to buy their favor. He had a small stipend, but he was always complaining that Kabul wasn't giving him enough, and that's probably true.

Get out and interact with locals as often as possible

I think beyond that it would be travel more, get out more, do what you can to get out. Supposedly part of the agreement creating this new senior civilian position was that the military would facilitate the senior civilian and his staff getting out; that it would be useless to have all these civilians sitting in Kandahar and not be able to get out. And get to know the Afghans would be probably the third one, because that was something I just didn't have the privilege to do, but I would hope that with this new office, there would be a lot more emphasis on working with the Afghan government.

Get access to good information from locals by being a regular presence in important offices and by cultivating relationships with local leaders and other influential actors

I found that I could get access to such information by being a regular presence, by cultivating relationships with the governors, with police chiefs, with other security officials, with anyone that I felt had an ear and a set of eyes on the political and social situation that would help my understanding of the realities that ordinary Afghans were facing. Beyond that, as much as the security situation permitted, I was able to go to the district level and meet with the same caliber of officials and interact with villagers as appropriate as well.

Engage key local leaders; everyone at the PRT focused on that goal

But the buzzword was "key leader engagement," deciding who the key leaders were, who mattered, who didn't matter, and who was going to be the one to engage them. So that was one mechanism that was in place.

Enhance interaction with locals at the district and other lower levels, as they represent the most immediate face of the government to the people

The district administrators are the most important people in the government, because they're the face of the government to the regular Afghan. At the times I was able to get down there to the district level, it was very, very, very productive and I really learned more there than I did by having tea with people at the provincial level. And now we're moving in that direction with district level teams in the South and East. If that model could be carried forward to the North, that would also be good.

Hire local consultants to assist on a range of aspects for Afghan relations

As I was leaving, we were in the process of hiring as many as eight of what they called cultural advisers. This was with military money, to have a political assistant, an economic assistant, someone who knew tribal dynamics, who could be an adviser. But none of those were available during most of my tenure.

Aggressively go out to meet locals, even if they don't want to meet with you, to find out who's who in the region

Get to know all the players in your area and that means cold calling, means being annoying, to the point of asking people for meetings, even though they don't want to meet with you, but find out what they're doing. That's one thing I think we need to do a better job of in Kabul. They need to give us a list of everyone working in our area, so we don't have to start inventing the wheel from scratch. That set me back a long time, trying to find names of people.

Engage host-nation actors on security issues

When there was an event, a major visit, or an Afghan holiday like the Afghan new year where we needed to coordinate security - or the elections is a better example - then we brought them in, we sat down, and the plan that was developed was an Afghan plan that we were a part of. So on the security level, there was planning and coordination.

At more secure PRTs, take advantage of the good conditions to leave the PRT often and make local connections

My advice was, "Go out as much as you can and you've got to be willing to take some calculated risks. You gain nothing by staying inside the PRT." In fact, one of my objectives throughout the time there was to get us to appreciate the permissive security environment and now, with talk of opening a consulate, I think that message is getting through.

Work with the provisional development committees to keep local government focused on the needs of the people

The PRT commander spent time getting the provincial government to increase its responsiveness to the needs of their people. The team predominantly used the provisional development committees (PDC) meetings to help the local leadership understand the PRT project process by seeing that projects put forward at the PDC had followed the required submission guidance, which focused on "bottom up" requirements rather than "top down."

Emphasize that PDC is locally run and driven by the decisions of local leadership, not PRTs

The most important organization involved in reaching agreements is the PDC. The PDC is the forum the province uses as a planning cell for projects. The PRT worked long and hard to help improve PDC processes. The PRT went to great lengths to ensure the PDC did not become PRT-led and always emphasized at PDC meetings that the PDC is run by the provincial leadership and not the PRT.

Hire military-aged males for projects.

The PRT always made an effort to hire military-aged males for projects so they would be engaged and not turn to the Taliban for employment. The money they earned gave them the security to settle down, start a family, and remain connected to the provincial community.

Bring in local government officials frequently to build confidence and trust

Sometimes government representatives would travel to the PRT base. The team took the time to host them at the PRT's base every 2-3 months after their initial meetings. The team held the meetings at the PRT in order to get them out of the normal government environment and away from the governor's compound. Initially, some line directors were nervous, but they became more relaxed later as the team connected with them on a personal level.

Set up PRT offices in the governor's compound to allow for frequent interaction and coordination

The PRT team had a set of six offices within the governor's compound, which worked out very well for coordination and interaction.

Hold signing ceremonies where local leaders can present a new project

Holding project signing ceremonies was a useful tool. These were done with local governance and village elders present. The elders would sign that they were responsible for the completed project, and this helped give them a sense of ownership.

Build up Afghan media, and Afghan government fluency with media

[The information officer (IO)] was very capable and even taught himself Pashtun [sic]. He was able to map out all the media contacts in Khost province, including professional and network linkages. This IO officer trained the local Afghan press how to function as a real media. The team had a 60-minute battle-drill process that forced the Afghan government agencies to provide information to the Afghan media.

Support local customs and projects, but be aware of who your projects empower

The PRT would agree to build a madrassa [Islamic religious school] if they were able to vet the mullah (Islamic clergy) who would teach at that school.


Develop strategies for follow-on PRT members, and try to continue executing strategies of previous PRTs

The PRT developed a strategy for the follow-on PRT to execute. Previous PRTs left behind a good strategy that they picked up and continued.

Map your projects, and share them with the military and other PRTs.

Upon arrival, there was no single map available that depicted all of the 217 kilometers of roads that were under construction, so the team created a large chart of all the roads in Khost. The same approach was taken for "vertical" construction. These tracking systems were pushed out to the brigade and other PRTs. Having this information readily at hand helped improve the commander's situational awareness on projects.


Establish a dual sign-off mechanism for Commander's Emergency Response Program (CERP) funds to improve coordination and unity of effort

The military commander comes with most of the people and most of the money, so it's a bit of a revolution now to have the civilian lead the equal counterpart; but now the civilian has to sign off on all the CERP funds as well as the military commander in order for their superior officers to take a look at it. The idea there is to make sure that we're working in synchronicity with the military so that USAID [U.S. Agency for International Development] isn't planning to pave a road with their OIEE [Office of Infrastructure, Engineering, and Energy] roads program at the same time that the military is doing so.

Manage PRT funding projects according to donor nation guidelines

The Polish PRT's funding rules required that funds be requested, obligated, and executed within the same fiscal year. Because of this, the PRT gave the Polish team shorter term projects that they could execute inside one fiscal year.

Enforce standards and transparency through constant mentorship of provincial leadership

We found one of the most effective ways to implement [self-sustaining governance] using our most powerful tool, CERP funding, was to enforce standards of project development, which encouraged good stewardship by the provincial development council, line directors, and governor to accurately represent and answer the needs of their people.

Provide funding for effective local leaders who need small amounts to gain favor with the population

He did have a small stipend from Kabul to help him do the kinds of things that a traditional Pashtun leader would do, like when you have a meeting giving out turbans, or Korans, or other little gifts to the people that you're meeting with to buy their favor. He had a small stipend, but he was always complaining that Kabul wasn't giving him enough, and that's probably true.

Ensure projects are important to local leaders by insisting that they contribute their own resources to it

It needs to be their priorities, and they need to buy into it and they need to contribute to it ... if a governor really genuinely believes there's a need for 50 schools, then he has to be prepared to put up 10 percent out of his own budget ... It needs to be important enough to the Afghans that they're willing to provide for some of it out of their own resources.

Use CERP as a tool to promote proper development standards

We found one of the most effective ways to implement [self-sustaining governance] using our most powerful tool, CERP funding, was to enforce standards of project development which encouraged good stewardship by the provincial development council, line directors and governor to accurately represent and answer the needs of their people.

Civil-Military Relations

Establish good relations with the PRT commander

All the U.S. PRTs are commanded by a lieutenant colonel. If you had a good working relationship with the commander and were personality driven, you got a lot done. (Note: Some of the U.S. PRTs are commanded by Navy commanders - lieutenant colonel equivalents.)

If the civilians had a good relationship with the commander, the commander would give consideration to their missions and go along with them.

Create a joint planning board to coordinate civil-military planning

The new head of the British PRT brought military planning officers over, with a senior civilian planner, and created a joint planning board. ... And this is what's really interesting, the civilian, because he had so much experience doing this, he would issue taskers through the military. So the military understood. And then he would go to the governance team, "What's your governance plan?" To the health adviser, "What's your health plan?" And then to the rule of law, counternarcotics, and justice advisers and ask them what their plans were.

Establish informal structures to improve civil-military relations

At our PRT we had a lieutenant colonel who bought into the idea of the interagency leadership team. We were able to cultivate a pretty good relationship and he did listen to us. It was an informal system. We would sit outside the cafeteria about once a week and smoke cigars and talk about where we were going to go that week and that month.

Have a civilian lead sign-off on CERP-funded projects

The military commander comes with most of the people and most of the money, so it's a bit of a revolution now to have the civilian lead his equal counterpart, but now the civilian has to sign off on all the CERP funds as well as the military commander in order for their superior officers to take a look at it. The idea there is to make sure that we're working in synchronicity with the military so that USAID isn't planning to pave a road with their OIEE [Office of Infrastructure, Engineering, and Energy] roads program at the same time that the military is doing so.

Increase the use of the National Guard's agribusiness development teams

We are using a lot of National Guard. Where we see National Guard more than anything else, though, are the agribusiness development teams, or ADTs, that come with their own security force. They are all Army, coming from different states; states are starting to pair with provinces. Afghanistan is an agro-based economy in both the licit and the illicit economies, and the ADTs provide a lot more agricultural support without having to use the security forces of the PRTs. The ADTs are often located with the PRTs, although they can travel more widely in a province and they do things like help the Afghans learn that if you trellis grapes rather than grow them on the ground, you'll have more of a yield for your grape crop.

Encourage U.S. civilian and military personnel, as well as coalition partners, to meet at the PRT and exchange information

I take some credit for that, that I was able to get out there, to bring them together, to know what all the police training actors were doing. We called monthly meetings and had everyone come around the table and share with each other what each was doing in the area of police training. I was amazed how much other parties didn't know what the other was doing, and yet we were all supposed to be doing the same thing. So that level of coordination I think definitely increased from the time I started to the time I left.

Attend all PRT meetings and make sure you sit in the command center

I was at virtually every meeting that we had with the commander. Usually I sat in the command center and that's what I would recommend for people like me going out: sit in the command center, have your computers there. That way, whenever the PRT commander comes in and convenes his different groups to discuss issues, you're there and you can pipe up and say, "Oh, I know something on that," or "Here's what I recommend on that."

I was virtually in every meeting that the PRT commander had with his staff and with visitors, Afghan visitors, and officials.

Clarifying the Mission

Be flexible and temper your expectations

My advice is just don't have that many expectations, don't think that at the end of 12 months that you're going to have a significant impact on the country, because you're not. And that the best advice is to be flexible ...

Take the initiative and implement the strategy when direction is not forthcoming

I would come up to the office on several occasions in Kabul and say, "You just don't want us to report on stuff up there, you want us to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty and make things move forward here" and they would say, "Well, if you think you can, go ahead." They don't tell us no.

Focus the work of PRTs on strategic areas, not just out in the field randomly

The previous brigades had basically tried to be everywhere, and the third brigade said, "No, we need to really focus on key areas in each province, go where the people are and secure the population, and then build out."

Establish and maintain close ties between American forces and international partners in common areas of operation

My biggest accomplishment was in actually bringing together the various pieces of the international effort. When I first arrived, there was no civilian presence at all, and the military was not talking to or working with the U.N., or any of the NGOs, or any of the relief agencies. Over the course of my tenure there, we established very close working relationships with the other international partners, and I think my successor carried that on. It was quite a dramatic improvement ... to make sure what the brigade was doing was tied together with what the U.N. and other international organizations were doing, but also tied with the Afghan priorities and strategy.

Formalize a requirement for "handover notes" for transitions from tour to tour

Touching on the handover, one of the things we institutionalized is that every work requirements statement for my section required to have transition notes - and a transition binder in some cases - handover information, and material for the successor because we found that in the past it really depended on the conscientiousness of the departing officer.

Embassy personnel should visit all PRTs

We tried to get out to them so that we had a better understanding of what the conditions were at different places. And the conditions, frankly, varied wildly from place to place.

More usually, being management, we were focused internally, although at one of the PRTs, I did go in to an election event and spoke.

Use a common-sense approach to overly constrictive regulations regarding PRT activities

I made the decision and passed it on to my successor that what we needed to be doing is to keep folks in the field working, doing the mission with the lightest possible regulatory touch that we can. But we can't ignore the regulations entirely. We have to stay as close as we can without making them too ridiculous for the folks in the field.

Maintain situational awareness by reading cables and attending meetings frequently

The political awareness, to a degree, was looking at cable traffic and attending the PRT Kabul office staff meetings where people discussed mainly non-management issues. So that was a way of staying familiar with events that were happening.

Clearly define roles and expectations for PRT positions

I think that my advice would have been probably first and foremost, "Define your role and make sure your role is defined, that someone knows what is expected of you, what you're supposed to be doing, and what you're supposed to accomplish because that is something that I never had.

Use CERP as a tool to promote proper development standards

We found one of the most effective ways to implement [self-sustaining governance] using our most powerful tool, CERP funding, was to enforce standards of project development, which encouraged good stewardship by the provincial development council, line directors, and governor to accurately represent and answer the needs of their people.

Increase security by maintaining a low profile

If I had been driving in a military vehicle, marked as such, it would have been a major issue. But because I was driving a low-profile, unmarked Land Cruiser, I had no problems and was able to travel independently of the PRT. I think that's one of the takeaways that I would like to stress: security was made possible by our not having a huge footprint. If we can replicate that, I think that officers would have a better experience than going out with a security detail and announcing their presence to everyone.

Ensure that the goal of poppy eradication be seen as coming from the host government

Poppy eradication comes to mind. ...The governors were strong advocates of it and they enforced it, even though the local farmers might not have liked it. If it was seen as coming from their government's side and not being imposed by ours, it was fine, and we were fortunate that that was the case. So four of the five provinces I covered in the north were declared "poppy free." That was a success that we were able to achieve with their cooperation.

Maintain a constant presence with the commander and relay useful information to him

I made a point of being actively engaged in the life of the [Swedish-led] PRT. This means attending all the meetings that I could that didn't interfere with my own plans and by showing the commander that even though I was not one of his military personnel that I could still make an important contribution. I did that by being present, by adding value, by communicating to them information from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, especially during the election run-up. The U.S. had the big picture because we were everywhere. The Swedes only had one tiny little sliver, and they didn't have as wide a presence as we did by any means. So that was, I think, important.

Many locals need training in basic literacy as they train to become soldiers and policemen

Fortunately, the Swedes and other partners have been training them in literacy. During their training, when they're brought aboard, they're given literacy courses to hopefully bring them up to a minimum level of comprehension, but it's still a long way to go.

Continuity of Effort

Prioritize the overlap between predecessor and successor

We had several days of overlap, I think four days. I filled him in on the situation, I advised him on the personalities and the main issues to watch out for, had introductory meetings to which I accompanied him with as many of the key officials as possible during the short overlap period.

Transfer e-mail accounts to your successor

The nice thing was that I took over his e-mail account, which is where he had a lot of documents - so I could search for things.

Rely on local nationals to get up to speed

We also had continuity in the form of one of the locally engaged staff, an Afghan. That really helped get me up and running.

Introduce your successor to key local leaders

The handover at the beginning of my tour was great. I knew my predecessor. We were friends. We spent three days together, driving around, meeting the officials. That definitely gave me a leg up once he left post.

Outgoing and incoming commanders should jointly brief local officials during the transition

To prevent misunderstandings, the outgoing PRT commander and the incoming commander briefed all the provincial sub-governors on all projects being planned and executed together so that everyone understood what the plan was.

The outgoing PRT commander introduced the new team to local leaders to ensure the local nationals understood that the new commander was aware of what projects had been approved.

Encourage gradual transition

There was a 10-day turnover for PRTs. Current people flowed out as their replacements came in. Key team members were kept as long as possible for turnover. The team employed left-seat/right-seat ride technique to gradually transition responsibility to the new team members prior to the transition of authority.

Civilian personnel can provide continuity for PRTs

The interagency representatives do not rotate at the same time as the military PRT members, but this is beneficial, as they provide continuity for the incoming team.

Send PRT personnel to train with the incoming team

The PRT commander was tasked to send one person from the PRT back to help train the next PRT during its training exercise.

The predeployment site survey is helpful in learning the local landscape before arrival

The PRT commander went on a predeployment site survey (PDSS) to Kunar, and it was very helpful for him to learn the local players in Kunar and also in adjoining provinces in Pakistan. The civil affairs teams keep running biographies on the local leaders.

Share key provincial issues and lessons learned with your successor

I was replaced by another ... officer ... and told him it was important to show patience, as nothing happens fast in Afghanistan. I showed him where the province was when I started and where they were now. I also shared mistakes and how to do things differently the next time.

Section 3. Lessons Learned

The lessons discussed in this section are from CALL's archives and cover the period since CALL has been collecting on PRTs. Though some of the information is dated and may have occurred in areas other than Afghanistan, the lessons still have relevancy and should be adjusted for the reader's particular situation.

Lesson Learned:

Influencing Leaders. It is difficult for the PRT to develop/influence/encourage leaders at the provincial government (PG) to practice good governance and to accelerate capacity building and development.

Observations and Insights:

The challenges faced by the provinces are complex, multifaceted, and vary due to religion and historical, political, and geographical contexts. A PRT strategy to address these challenges and support the provinces to the path of development should be diverse. What works in one province region does not necessarily work in another, though there are some governance principles and key elements that the PRT will find in common:

  • Legitimacy of and trust in state institutions.
  • Political will and committed leadership.
  • Security.
  • Delivering basic services.
  • Rule of law.
  • Transparency and accountability.
  • Civil society.

Provinces often lack enough qualified people to fill positions in the PG. The basic executive, managerial, and technical skills required for provincial ministerial director positions often need to be developed on the job. As a result, the PRT must build the needed institutional capacity within the existing PG.

PRTs can address this problem by emphasizing the mentorship program in Local Governance Program (LGP) III. Program managers can be selected from both the PRT and PG staffs to shape the LGP III mentorship program and scope the main objectives. The PRT must conduct an assessment to link the lessons learned with new long-term objectives.


Develop the scope of the program, select your team, and gain PG buy-in.

  • Selecting a program manager. Select a program manager early within the PRT to shape the program and guide its initial launch. Although the PRT leader should provide his intent and shaping guidance, he should not take the lead on this project.
    • Launching and running a successful program will require significant effort that will likely conflict with the PRT leader's other activities. Ideally, the PRT leader will have a staff of "advisers" who are subject matter experts and will work directly with the relevant directors general and provincial council members to effect change and capacity building.
    • A counterpart within the PG should co-lead the program. This could be the governor, the chief of administration, or one of the governor's or provincial council's deputies.
  • Assess internal resources (talent inventory). Assess internal resources to determine available skill sets. Consider personnel outside the PRT organization, expanding the screening process to collocated maneuver and support units or nearby forward operating bases. Rely on local hires when access to local leaders is difficult.

"The hardest part for us was interacting with Iraqis on a day-to-day basis. Sometimes getting out was difficult. The amount of time you had with them was limited. Sometimes what they would tell you was limited, so you depended on a lot of these locally hired Iraqis who worked for us to fill in the gaps and help explain things to us."

- USAID, Basra, Fall 2009

  • Gain PG buy-in. This program requires "top-down" support from the provincial governor and key ministry directors. However, the program manager and PRT leader should understand their available resources and skill sets before approaching the provincial governor with this program. Using output from the skills inventory, a detailed understanding of available PRT and maneuver unit staff will allow the PRT to set realistic expectations and help guide the subsequent matching of mentors with appropriate provincial staff. This initial analysis supports the first discussions and manages expectations of the governor and key PG staff on the scope of the mentoring program and level of expertise available at the PRT and nearby military units.
  • Assess PG and key staff. When making this assessment, the program manager should consider both the available staff and the province's critical needs. Assessing the critical needs of the province includes key directors general and their respective capacities.
  • Launching the program. Once the PG agrees with the scope, approach, and goals of the program, implementation of the mentorship program can begin.
  • Kick-off meeting. Launching the program with clear direction and a robust plan increases the likelihood of success. It is important to ensure the program objectives are clear and shared, roles are defined, and both mentors and counterparts understand the processes for interaction.
  • Initial meetings. Matching mentors with the appropriate counterparts is a key initial task. As the host country has a specific type of society, culture, and education level, consideration should be given to matching mentors with appropriate counterparts. Matching a younger Soldier or staff with a much older counterpart is unlikely to be effective. Key relationships would be better positioned from the outset as supporting or technical-skills-transfer relationships rather than as management-mentor relationships.
  • Coordination with governor. Throughout the entire process, the PRT coordinates all efforts with the PG to ensure unity of effort. Additionally, the PRT can use this event as a teaching and mentoring tool to show the PG that local leaders can solve key issues of importance to the PG and the local people.
  • Ongoing collaboration. One approach is to focus the collaboration around a specific project. However, the mentor should resist the urge to take over doing the work. The mentor should help his counterpart to develop and consider options for solving problems.
  • Program evaluation and internal reviews. The program manager should set out a system to evaluate progress against established and agreed-to criteria. Effectiveness of the mentor-counterpart relationship is assessed by the provincial governor, PRT leader, the PG, and PRT program manager.
  • Transition plan. Ideally, mentor-counterpart relationships should be transitioned to incoming PRT and maneuver units based an internal assessment of the people on the new team. Priority should be to cover the key positions in the PG, as significant benefits come from continuity in coaching PG members to be better managers. Specific technical subject-matter expertise for mentoring line ministry skills may not be available in the next PRT. The PRT should maintain awareness of other experts within the wider community (other PRT staffs, U.S Forces-Iraq and other staffs, as well as in the interagency community). However, the main focus of the mentoring program involves the transfer of basic management skills. As this basic mentoring does not require specific subject-matter expertise, it should be possible to match incoming staff with current PG staff counterparts for continuity of key relationships.

Lesson Learned:

Leadership Engagement Under Difficult Conditions. It is difficult for the PRT to advance its long-term mission of enhancing good governance when the current key leaders are corrupt and/or ineffective. The PRT can influence better behavior and performance.

Observations and Insights:

The reality on the ground is that some provincial officials will not act in the people's best interest due to corruption, incompetence, or both, and at times may be uncooperative. The goal is to enhance good governance and encourage transparency. Although the PRT would prefer to avoid associating with corrupt, ineffective government leaders, in the short term, the PRT is required to maintain a professional level of engagement with the existing government. A principal PRT mission is to influence good governance, assist in building institutional governance capacity, and support strategic reconstruction in its area of responsibility (AOR). To accomplish this mission, the PRT needs to engage continually with the provincial leadership and increase access to other ministry directors to build institutional capacity.

Provincial leaders must be determined to fight corruption to free resources for the economic and political development. Emphasize fighting corrupted institutions that negatively impact growth and development. Corruption can have the following negative effects:

  • Reduce public revenue and increase government spending, hence contributing to large fiscal deficits and making it more difficult for a government to run a sound fiscal policy.
  • Reduce investment and the productivity of public investment and infrastructure.
  • Increase income inequality by allowing those in influential positions to take advantage of government activities at the expense of the rest of the population.
  • Distort markets and the allocation of resources. Corruption interferes with the government's ability to impose necessary regulatory controls and inspections to correct market failures, thereby reducing the fundamental role of government (i.e., the PG cannot enforce payment of taxes on property).

One way to address this problem is by maintaining a working relationship with the governor and provincial council head of the security committee while simultaneously engaging the PG at multiple levels across key provincial line ministries. Regardless of the quality of key provincial leaders, PRTs need to continually engage with key leaders while expanding knowledge and relationships across the government. The PRT must employ practical techniques to build governmental capacity.

  • Use access to wider PG contacts to communicate (re-emphasize) coalition policy on corruption and counternarcotics. Deliver similar messages in public forums.
  • Diplomatically deliver consistent messages in private forums reminding government officials of their duty to uphold the rule of law and govern in the interest of the people.
  • Always maintain a dialogue for information sharing on security matters and reconstruction planning. Avoid reconstruction support unless controls are in.
  • Provide assessments of key leaders through command channels to influence the central government to make changes in the key provincial leaders.


Assess the PG (line directors and staff). In most cases, some line ministry directors are ready to work with the PRT. DOS representatives can help maintain the relationship map of provincial officials. Use available resources (time, CERP funding, Quick Response Funding (QRF), and associations) to influence and reinforce good behavior:

  • CERP/QRF projects. Work with PG line ministry staff to address projects that can provide timely impacts and be visible to the people. PG directors who are ready to work transparently and to the benefit of their constituents are rewarded with follow-on funding for projects of similar merit. Look for opportunities to engage with less-effective PG staffs during the process. Encourage the PG staff to participate in the progress. Manage possible obstacles to progress closely. The long wait on CERP approval can negatively impact the PRT's commitment in economic development. If CERP is mentioned, the caveats of a CERP approval should be mentioned as well.
  • Developing institutional capacity. Collaborating on a specific project or program with a line ministry director and staff can be an effective vehicle for building capacity. Mentoring programs can help build skills with other PG members after gaining buy-in from the governor and line directors to work with their staff.
  • Consider phased development/investment to control funds. Phased project execution allows the PRT to invest in projects that are being managed with transparency and effectiveness. Involving local leaders in shaping projects and creating local work crews can yield the optimum economic benefits while putting in place good project controls for CERP funds. This phased approach also allows adequate time for teaching.
  • Reassess the PG. As the PRT continues to engage the PG, subsequent assessments should be made periodically. These assessments should be based on the criteria established in the original assessment of the province.

Lesson Learned:

Preparing the PRT for Key Leader Engagements. Not all personnel assigned to the PRT possess the tools and skills necessary to successfully engage the people, tribal leaders, local government officials, or the provincial governor.

Observations and Insights:

The PRT leader constantly stresses the importance of being security conscious while still being aware of properly interacting with the local population. Although no formal training process has been established, keeping the purpose of the mission at the forefront of most discussions makes service members take this into consideration during mission planning and execution. Ensuring that everyone on the mission knows what they are going to be doing helps everyone to understand their part. Force protection Soldiers should be rotated through the tactical operations center (TOC), guard towers, and missions outside of the wire to get a better appreciation for what the PRT is doing and to gain an understanding of the nation's people and culture.


  • Leader meeting. The PRT leader holds a leader meeting where the commander engagement concept is outlined. The PRT is to keep security on the forefront of all planning; however, adverse risk is not going to be an option. Steps are taken to ensure that a friendly appearance is presented when possible. Examples of this behavior are reducing vehicle speeds when driving through town and waving to the people, and taking off armored vests and helmets when meeting with local leaders in their homes or offices or even at some venues. Provided it is a safe and secure location. Additionally, the posture military PRT personnel take with their weapons when on patrols is dictated by the perceived threat in the area.
  • Conducting informal training. Because PRT operations are often new to many service members, on-the-spot corrections are common; however, covering this during mission briefs keeps it on the forefront of their minds. Additionally, the PRT works to get everyone involved in local engagements on a routine basis. This means occasionally getting force protection personnel out of their vehicles during an engagement to attend a shura or a local meal as a participant rather than a security element. PRTs also rotate all personnel through the TOC to gain a better understanding of mission planning.
  • Conducting formal training. The PRT intends to develop some formal periods of instruction that will put everyone on the same level of knowledge.
  • PRT mission. This is more than just the standard mission. Each PRT member's mission should be covered in detail, including techniques for successfully interacting with the local populace. This instruction might even cover some of the common operational picture (COP) data the PRT is looking to collect while performing its everyday missions.
  • Risk avoidance versus risk mitigation. It is possible for a PRT to get into the habit of reducing the amount of time it leaves the wire because of risk avoidance. If PRT members do not leave the wire, they are not able to engage with the PG and the local people; therefore, they cannot conduct their mission. Risk mitigation is taking steps to reduce potential security hazards to continue to accomplish the mission.
  • Government structure. Lessons on how the government was formed, how PG officials are elected or selected for positions, and information on the background of the constitution are important. Understanding these subjects is critical in avoiding embarrassing errors.
  • Religious practices and the mullahs. Understanding the religious practices of host nationals helps service members figure out why locals make certain decisions. Many people do not understand how mullahs can be so influential in the PG's decision-making process. Working with cultural experts, reading material about Islam, and talking with local citizens can help service members gain a better appreciation of the local culture.
  • Adopting a local village. After getting to know the local people, some PRTs have adopted a local village. Donors from the United States send items that service members can share with the local population. This is an effective way to create a bond with little effort or expense.
  • Sporting events. Because many of the local kids like to play soccer, one PRT set up a challenge against a local soccer team. The national police provided security for the event, which turned out to be a great success. Members of the PG may attend the event and hand out an award at the end.
  • Teaching culture. One PRT helped its local guards improve their English skills. The PRT had several of the guards talk about life in their country and their religion with service members. Many of the local guards are close in age to the young PRT members. Because of the relationship the PRT members already have with these guards, hearing about the local life and culture from them will have more of an impact than from an instructor the PRT members do not know.
  • Transitioning practice to the next PRT. Members of the PRT should share their experiences with new arrivals to reduce their anxiety level. Ultimately, anything PRT members can do to help the next PRT understand the local population will help.

Lesson Learned:

It is difficult to communicate the positive aspects of the PRTs work to influence and build relationships with the key communicators of a province.

Observations and Insights:

Focus on tribe leaders.

  • Tribal leaders are often respected members in the communities. In the Shiite province, the top Shiite cleric is respected, but his strength comes from tribal leaders. Depending on the region where a PRT is located, tribal leaders may have influence over policy decision making. Therefore, is important the PRT establishes a good relationship with the tribal leaders. Political gridlocks are becoming a norm in Iraq, and tribal leaders may assist to resolve political disputes. The PRT's role will be as a mediator on political reconciliation.
  • In Iraq, sheiks have greater influence than religious leaders. However, in some areas of the country, sheiks have been pushed out of the political process. There are tribes that do have influence, and it is important to sustain an engagement. The PRT does have the best opportunities to build a relationship with the sheiks, and if a sheik is important in the PRT's AOR, then the sheik can be instrumental as a facilitator with the PG officials.

The PRT can engage key populace groups by using religious leaders. Religious leaders are key members of society and can influence the actions and opinions of the local population. The PG and the PRT need to engage this group in a forum to understand their perceptions, build trust, improve perceptions, and proactively respond to their concerns.

Religion is an important factor in the modern culture. Although religion is important to many in our society, it is usually quite separate from our government and educational systems. To truly understand some cultures, one must fully grasp the importance religion plays in almost every aspect of life. Religious leaders hold positions of power, are much respected, and have the ability to heavily influence their followers' lives. Building a good relationship with them in your province is essential for the coalition.

The PRT is in the best position to establish this relationship in conjunction with the PG. Failure to understand and respect the religious culture could have serious repercussions (e.g., an act, intentional or not, that might be repugnant to Muslims could be mitigated if there is a good relationship with the mullahs in your province). By building relationships with religious leaders, the PRT can understand their perceptions, build their trust, positively influence their perceptions, and proactively respond to their issues. It is important to involve the PG when interacting with religious leaders. This involvement will encourage both the PG and religious leaders to participate in civil society by reaching out to the local population.

Building relationships with religious leaders can provide a variety of positive effects for the PRT. Including religious leaders in the reconstruction decision-making process can positively focus their energies and give legitimacy to the projects. Additionally, there will be improved relationships with the religious community and, consequently, with the populace. These relationships will increase the awareness of the PRT on sensitive religious issues. Once good relationships have been established with these leaders, the PRT's influence with those that wield the most power in the community will increase. Good relationships encourage all parties, the PRT, the religious leaders, and the PG to consider all the issues.

The PG needs to engage religious leaders and draw them into civil society activities:

  • Invite the religious community in the province to a meeting called by the governor. By having the PG invite them, religious leaders are protected from the perception that they are collaborating with the coalition. It is important to clearly identify your audience and where they come from regionally. Knowing your audience is important to any successful engagement.
  • Attend the meetings with a minimum number of military and U.S. government (USG) personnel. Use one scribe so the PRT leader can maintain maximum eye contact and gauge the crowd. Bring interpreters to the meetings to catch sidebar conversations. Have the interpreters take any photographs, because religious leaders often think that the U.S. military is taking pictures for intelligence-collection purposes.
  • Use the initial forum to explain coalition objectives and review reconstruction activities, while reminding the group of the positive contributions the coalition reconstruction efforts are making.
  • Allow religious leaders to vent their grievances; at the same time, use the forum to encourage them to act.
  • Maintain follow-up contact and begin to develop an actionable plan to address possible negative perceptions. For follow-on meetings, an agenda including both the coalition's and mullahs' topics should help guide and control the length of the meeting.


The PRT should enlist the help of PG members (e.g., provincial governor and director from Ministry of Religious Affairs) to convene the meeting. Encourage the participation of all key religious leaders in the province. Work with the provincial director of religious affairs to plan the event and agenda format. Ensure the agenda is circulated among invitees prior to the event. Remember that meetings often get off track and will go longer than anticipated if you do not have someone controlling the meeting. Select a secure venue, preferably a local government site and not the PRT or U.S. military site. It is polite to serve refreshments or lunch for all attendees. When transitioning to the next PRT, set up a meeting of the primary attendees and introduce the new PRT during the relief-in-place (RIP) process. It is important to relay as much information as possible about the religious leaders to the incoming PRT members.

PRTs should introduce incoming commanders and/or civil-military operations center chiefs to the PG. Provide background on the PG (can use DOS profile). It is important to transition working relationships to the incoming team.

Lesson Learned:

Corruption in Local Governments. Given the prevalence of corruption, PRT personnel must recognize this challenge and determine - on a case-by-case basis - the appropriate incentives and practical techniques to influence the local leaders to mitigate the overall problem and encourage greater levels of transparency.

Observations and Insights:

  • Corruption is deeply rooted in both societies, and PRT members often encountered corrupt officials in the course of their duties. One interviewee stated, "In many cases, people's complaints about corruption are really, 'His corruption is interfering with my corruption.'" Even local officials who wanted to improve conditions in their communities had to work within an environment that viewed patronage as acceptable. One interviewee stated, "They're working in an atmosphere where corruption is part and parcel of how things get done." A DOS employee who has worked in both Afghanistan and Iraq relayed, "If the tribes are on board with this idea of building a provincial government that can provide patronage, because it is essentially a patronage society, you are going to succeed. But if they oppose you, you are going to fail."
  • Several interviewees observed that corruption undermined the legitimacy of local and national governments. Often, the contact that most locals had with the government was negative: "The closest contact they have with their government is the police: the poorly paid, untrained policemen whose job it is to just take bribes from them; that's their daily contact with their government." Working with local officials who are perceived as corrupt also undermines the U.S. or coalition credibility. Said another interviewee, "The longer we are linked with corrupt officials, the more we are thought to be corrupt as well, because it is incomprehensible to [locals] who understand all of the stuff that we don't, that we don't understand all of the stuff that they do about who these officials are." Interviewees also noted that it is difficult to remove corrupt officials. Even when PRT members made efforts to report and remove corrupt officials to American and coalition leaders, "Nothing ever came of it. It was never engaged with the [host] government, it was never made an issue with the people who make the appointments. Only a handful of sub-governors were removed or replaced for ineptitude or corruption. Over the last eight years, the U.S. and international community have made a significant investment in fighting corruption in Iraq and Afghanistan, but progress remains limited at best. Afghanistan's ranking in the 2009 Transparency International Corruption Perception Index was 179th out of 180 countries - making it, by that standard, the second-most corrupt country in the world. This has caused the Special Inspector for Afghanistan Reconstruction to identify corruption as one of the four major oversight concerns and greatest obstacle to progress in Afghanistan.


The following suggestions were discussed by interviewees as possible mechanisms to address the problem of corruption.

  • Identify and mentor local credible officials: Find official or unofficial leaders that are well respected in their local community and advocate to the relevant U.S. and host-government officials for these individuals to fill official roles. Provide more funding and increase mentorship of these leaders.
  • Withhold funding and remove local corrupt officials: PRT leaders and members in the field should have a greater voice in the assessment of local officials. If local officials are corrupt or incompetent, designated PRT personnel should be able to withhold funding and then recommend removal if necessary.
  • Increase and improve oversight of funding: Local officials often lack the capacity to prevent corruption on their own. The international community must assist with oversight of international funding to ensure it is not wasted.

Lesson Learned:

Build Medical Capacity. PRTs can assist the PG to build sustainable medical capacity in the province.

Observations and Insights:

Everything from the way the PRT conducts its medical and public health outreach program to the sourcing of medical supplies can have a positive or negative effect on the how quickly medical capacity is built in the province.

Two areas that have a particular impact are:

  • Sub-practice 1: How the PRT works with provincial health officials and existing host-nation facilities to build in-situation capacity.
  • Sub-practice 2: How the PRT plans, sources, and purchases medical supplies, equipment, facilities, rehabilitation, and training to support its medical capacity building in the province.

The PRT should assess the need to use QRF funds to purchase medical supplies for providing support to host-nation clinics and augment collaborative medical outreach events. Medical supplies are hard to source through U.S. channels. However, hasty local sourcing of medical supplies presents a number of risks and could lead to negative effects such as temporary shortages of medicines and/or increases in prices at local pharmacies. Other risks include sourcing of poor quality products (not meeting required quality specifications or medicines past their expiration date).

One PRT addressed this problem by developing a process to mitigate risks and successfully source frequently demanded medical supplies/products through local distribution channels.

  • Plan projects well in advance and aggregate the purchasing volume into one sourcing event. The sourcing process could take up to 45 days.
  • Build requirements based on inputs from multiple sources.
  • Assess input from demand from previous events.
  • Develop the technical specifications for required products.
  • Develop a "request for quote" that includes the quantities, service level (e.g., delivery time), and packaging requirements.
  • Screen and qualify potential vendors from approved vendor-lists compiled by Joint Contracting Command.
  • Issue and manage request for quote process.
  • Inspect the product thoroughly upon receipt, preferably by qualified or trained personnel.
  • Properly store all medicines.


Implementing steps:

  • Determine requirements. Assess current and future demand for medical supplies. The PRT should estimate the number of village/township medical outreaches and collaborations with clinics or medical civic action programs that are planned over a longer time horizon and summarize the intermediate requirements for three to six months.
  • Develop a list of potential suppliers. Screen potential suppliers in the province and beyond. Develop a long list of suppliers/distributors capable of supplying products and services of the required quality in the quantities needed.
  • Screen for potential supplier distributors in the province and beyond. Use available contacts in the province to identify sources of supply. These contacts include provincial directors, USAID, and other aid agencies working in the province. Make it clear that you are just certifying the suppliers. Develop information profiles for potential vendors for future purchases. Collect this information in a standard format.
  • Refine criteria selection requirements. Refine requirements, supplier market coverage, distribution range, and order lead time.
  • Prepare a request for proposal. Develop a clear request for proposal that sets out the plan.

Lesson Learned:

Establishing a Builder's Workshop to Improve Building Trade Skills. The PRT can help create and encourage a viable workforce in the province to overcome a shortage of building trade skills and competent contractors.

Observations and Insights:

  • Contractors need to be trained as a team outside a formal classroom setting. More trained and qualified contractors will accelerate the pace of quality construction and build a foundation for the provincial construction trades industry. Skilled training is needed to meet long-term reconstruction goals and maintenance standards and provide quality construction. The PG needs to train host-national workers to build reconstruction and development projects to improve building capacity and help meet current and future demands for skilled labor.
  • The way a PRT can address this problem is by creating a workshop devoted to training its regular contractors on good construction techniques. U.S. Army engineers can train the national army engineers on quality building trade practices appropriate for a developing country. The national army engineers will then instruct the contractors.
  • The course of instruction is the same course work given to the national army engineers. The contractors may bring along up to three workers each to receive the instruction. A set of good tools should be provided to students upon graduation. Graduates would receive a certificate of completion and a wallet-sized identification card saying they have completed this course. The PG can be represented by the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development and the provincial engineer.
  • The next step is to conduct the class again and upgrade the skills taught to returning attendees. The end result of implementing these practices is to create a small pool of trained employees who will be able to find local jobs. Having trained builders will increase the quality of construction in the province as the PG works towards self-sustaining systems.


Coordinating the concept:

  • Selecting a program manager. To ensure that a coordinated effort is possible, the PRT should select a volunteer to lead the program. The program manager can be a civil affairs team (CAT) leader who works directly with U.S. engineers.
  • PG interest. The PRT leader and the program lead should meet with the provincial engineer and the national army leadership to get buy-in on the concept. The meeting should be a basic concept discussion.

Conducting a provincial assessment:

  • Construction quality. Assessments of provincial construction projects may not always be up to the quality standards required for projects to last. It has been suggested that projects constructed by host nationals are often of a lower quality than those built by workers from another country because of the skills gap. Sometimes all of the contractors may come from outside the province. To be truly effective, the PRT should require that at least 75 percent of workers hired for projects come from the local district.
  • Existing vocational trade schools. There may not be any trade schools existing in the province to teach proper construction techniques.
  • Job opportunities. Each contractor should bring three attendees with him. The thought behind this is that the attendees who are not contractors may be able to start their own construction business as a result of this training.

Creating the workshop:

  • School location. This can be treated much like a U.S. conference. The PRT provides the attendees with lodging and food to ensure as much as possible that students attend the entire six days of instruction.
  • Developing a curriculum. The CAT/PRT can choose to utilize the Inter-Service Builder Apprentice Training (A-710-0010) and Inter-Service Building Apprentice Training Phases A, B, and C (A-710-033 Army). This will ensure the host-nation army trainers and contractors have a good base of instruction.
  • Equipping the school. The PRT/CAT can order quality tools from vendors. Part of the problem with local construction is that the tools often break and are not of good quality. Some of the contractors may be interested in becoming tool distributors.
  • Coordinating with the PG. Throughout the whole process, PRT members should coordinate all efforts with the PG to ensure unity of effort. The provincial engineer should be heavily involved in developing this plan. The provincial engineer could be a guest instructor during the workshop. He will provide the continuity necessary to continue the program.

Transitioning the school to the PG:

  • PG provides classroom location.
  • PG provides all classroom equipment.
  • PG provides the graduation basic tool kits.

Lesson Learned:

Using the Local Media to Communicate with the Population. The PRT must reach the populace in the province with targeted messages that build awareness and support for the local government and the USG's effort.

Observations and Insights:

  • The challenge is that there may be little in the way of established communications systems and media. It is important to engage with local government officials and allow them to deliver a message of progress to the people.
  • The PRT leader and others should be able to engage the local media in their field of expertise with the guidance of the public diplomacy officer. Roundtable discussions work well, also joint sessions with military leadership.
  • Although media engagement may attempt to reach multiple audiences (e.g., U.S. citizens, the international community, deployed coalition forces, and locals), the PRT's primary audience is the provincial populace. However, there are limited resources provided to the PRT to reach that audience effectively. A local newspaper, one that focuses mostly on stories of national-level interest and stories that promote coalition efforts, should be engaged.
  • Some regional content can be introduced to provide news and targeted public information in the province. There may be a dearth of local language content available for public information. In the end, the people may have little information about their local government at a time when the government needs to build awareness and engage its people in the civil processes of a democracy. The PRT leader needs to reach out to the local audience. He can do this by contacting the state-run television station operating in the provincial capitol.
  • Take a state television station's camera crew to an event to have local media document the engagement and provide commentary for the event. This practice shows the people of the province that their local government is working toward providing better services for its people and explains how the government is accomplishing this enormous task. The coverage should be balanced and fact-based, discussing the challenges the country faces. If the government is not doing a good job, the news report should show that as well. Because the engagements involve the local government and do not revolve around the direct actions of the PRT, this practice helps to dispel many of the myths about coalition forces.
  • The initial videotaping of a governor's meeting with religious figures where the PRT leader is also in attendance can receive a lot of attention. The PRT should continue to work with the local government on the concept of providing public service messages. The end result of implementing this practice is the creation of media coverage that will promote the PG's activities and provide public service information.


Coordinating the concept:

  • Selecting a program manager. To ensure that a coordinated effort is possible, the PRT should select its CAT leader to monitor this program.
  • PG interest. The PRT leader and the program manager meet with the governor and the director of communications to propose, refine, and agree upon the idea being proposed. At the meeting, present the basic concept and review the media capabilities in the province. The PG should agree that the people have a great interest in what goes on in the province and that a more aggressive plan on managing the message could help the people understand how their government is supporting them. The communications plan could also help in the area of public service messages by addressing such issues as health.

Conducting a provincial media assessment:

  • Types and location of media assets. The program manager should work with the director of communications to agree upon a basic coverage concept of the current media facilities and develop a broad vision of where the PG wants to expand its current resources. The PRT AOR may have state-run television and radio as well as private television stations that reach a large part of the populace due to high population densities in several key areas. Every type of media is usually represented in the province and can be part of a media engagement plan.
  • Capabilities of the local television station. The PRT can approach state-run television stations and invite them to cover and record events, such as project groundbreakings, grand openings, village medical outreaches, and PG-sponsored religious meetings. The television station may be interested in covering these events but lack basic audio/video equipment. The PRT can purchase a small portable video camera and basic video equipment and give it to the station. The station can then send a cameraman out with the PRT to cover key events occurring in the province.

Working with the state-run television station:

  • Basic media training. The program manager should work with the local media to help improve their presentation techniques for taped segments. The PRT can encourage the television station to interview members of the PG as part of the film clip introduction. The cameraman can also interview people attending key events to capture their impressions of the event or efforts of the PG. Covering these events leads to more PG involvement and brings a local perspective to the events.
  • Preparing the message for radio and print. Another benefit of helping the television station create content is that the same content can be used for radio (audio) scripts and played on the radio across the province. The scripts can also be used for print media.

Involving the PG:

  • Public service messages. The PRT should work with the director of communications and/or the state-run television station to help it package ideas and promote positive public service messages to the province. One planned campaign idea could be sponsored by the director of health to combat a local epidemic that is a common cause of mortality (e.g., the public service message could help dispel the myth that giving more water to infants with dysentery results in their death, when in actuality, death is caused by dehydration). The PRT can also help the communication director or television station make radio and TV spots.
  • Expanding media coverage. Current coverage may be limited. The PG has a plan to increase coverage but needs assistance in financing the hardware upgrades. The station could consider selling airtime to businesses for advertising or to NGOs to air information and outreach programming (e.g., farm extension programs and teacher training). The PRT could consider buying airtime for public information campaigns highlighting public health and safety issues or for promoting events such as village medical outreach events.
  • Radio distribution. The PRT should have money to distribute radios to areas the signal covers but where people do not have radios. This will maximize the efforts of getting information to the people.
  • Suggest modifications. The PRT must understand that the PG controls many of the media resources. The PRT should monitor the PG's usage of the systems and suggest modifications to the process when it identifies areas where the PG could benefit.
  • Develop a media campaign. The director of communications should develop a media campaign to keep the people informed by having the PRT maintain a good relationship with the director of communications and assist in getting the governor to understand the importance of this communication tool.

Lesson Learned:

Relations and information sharing with the embassy in Kabul. There is a perceived distance and sense of miscommunication between U.S. PRT personnel and their counterparts in the embassy, exacerbated in part by what many interviewees see as a greatly under-resourced PRT office at the embassy.

Observations and Insights:

  • Few U.S. PRT personnel cited specific positive aspects of their general relations with the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. One interviewee conveyed appreciation for the way embassy personnel showed trust in encouraging the interviewee to "do what you think is best" in the field. This same interviewee portrayed embassy personnel as "responsive and knowledgeable" as well. A second interviewee echoed the first's sentiments regarding the great degree of trust that embassy personnel showed, adding that those in the embassy consistently "provided a good level of support." This interviewee continued, "When I had a budget request, they didn't say no, and they tried to help me find ways to accommodate that request. They did their best to support us."
  • Almost all respondents made negative observations about their relations with the embassy during their respective interviews. Most of these negative observations concerned insufficient resources and personnel at the embassy devoted to PRT issues. "The home office for us in Kabul was incredibly understaffed [and] overworked," said one interviewee, "And one of the casualties of that was not being able to give strategic support and guidance to people in the field."
  • Other grievances, concerning miscommunication and lack of communication seemed to stem directly from the perceived dearth of PRT-specific personnel at the embassy. One interviewee explained, "There were many, many instances when I reached up the chain to Kabul to pose a question about reconciliation or this political leader or that strategic decision, to try to get guidance, and it was almost never forthcoming." Another recalled asking the embassy for support in leveraging its power with local Afghan actors in a particular district: "Can you help us out?" the interviewee had said, "And there'd be silence. So that was a little bit frustrating."
  • A third category of grievance concerned the divide between perspectives from the field and from the embassy. One interviewee recalled "arguing with my colleagues at the embassy" over an issue concerning civilian mobility in the field that seemed very hard for individuals far away in Kabul to understand. Another interviewee "did not feel that there was adequate input from the field into the process" of general PRT activities, elaborating that "there were a lot of people making these critically important strategic decisions in Kabul ... who had never been to the field."
  • There is often and perhaps inevitably a distance between personnel at headquarters (in this case the embassy) and personnel in the field. This is exacerbated by the rapid and sometimes ad hoc deployment of U.S. personnel from various U.S. agencies into a war zone. Nevertheless, no formalized process has ever existed regarding the lines of communication and hierarchy between the PRT office at the embassy and PRTs and their personnel in the field. Like so many other aspects of PRT planning and activities, U.S. personnel working at PRTs around Afghanistan have never known what to expect from their embassy counterparts - leading to a great deal of confusion and frustration as each side strives to carry out their duties.
  • The problems in PRT relations related to the small amount of PRT-dedicated personnel at the embassy are in the process of being addressed. Two recent interviewees stressed that positive changes were already noticeable by the time they left their posts: an increase in the number of personnel working on PRT issues at the embassy, a physically larger PRT office there, and an ongoing clarification of reporting chains.
  • At least two interviewees seemed to take the initiative in breaking down the embassy-field divide by making trips to the embassy to explain their problems and requests in person. These interviewees experienced far greater results and much more substantial interactions in general throughout their time at post. As one interviewee explained, "There's no substitute for sitting down face to face and explaining an idea to somebody at their desk."
  • Two dilemmas highlighted by interviewees stem from long-term, recurring issues regarding the PRT structure in Afghanistan. The first dilemma is the problematic nature of the one-year rotation cycle among all U.S. personnel, which one interviewee felt was an integral reason why embassy personnel did not have the expertise and institutional knowledge required for answering questions and solving problems related to PRT activities. Another dilemma surrounds the fact that most civilian PRT personnel in the field know that their embassy counterparts cannot provide them with the amount of funding as the U.S. military, given the preponderance of CERP funding in many PRT activities. At least two interviewees felt their relations with their embassy counterparts suffered as a result of this discrepancy.


  • Institutionalizing the practice of periodic visits by U.S. PRT personnel in the field to the embassy in Kabul during their one-year tours.
  • Mandating the writing of incoming briefs and outgoing back-briefs for PRT members arriving and departing Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Continuing efforts to increase the size of the PRT office at the embassy, provide more PRT-dedicated personnel there, and clarify reporting chains between the embassy and the field.

Lesson Learned:

Information sharing in the PRT. The PRT must share information from many sources with its own staff and members.

Observations and Insights:

  • The PRT requires practical information collection and display tools to provide a common understanding of the situation in the province. Current information graphically displayed enables better operations planning and reconstruction and development. Lack of transition data by RIP units causes a need to collect data about the province. PRTs use different methods of collecting and displaying data.
  • Ensure the PRT has a weekly conference call with the desk officer to stay connected. Is important for the Office of Provincial Affairs (OPA) to provide the PRT staff updates on future plans and policy changes. If the OPA provides the PRT with the opportunity to offer suggestions, the PRT staff will believe it is contributing to the program. Information from these staff calls should be made available to other PRT members for impact or situational awareness.
  • Another approach is for OPA to organize periodic conference calls among PRT staff and advisers in specific topic areas, such as governance, rule of law, public diplomacy, agriculture, or public health. This facilitates understanding embassy direction, latest national-level information, and sharing best practices. Information from these staff calls should be made available to other PRT members for impact or situational awareness.
  • The PRT needs a system for collecting and storing data that makes the information available to different members of the team. The COP is the visual display that results from setting priority information requirements, developing workable processes for collection, and updating the graphic display to summarize information.


  • Select a program manager. The PRT civil affairs liaison team operations officer/planner is a good choice. The key to a successful COP is to include all members of the PRT.
  • PG interest. Teaching the provincial governor about the usefulness of having a reconstruction and development COP would be beneficial; however, based on limitations in technology in the province, using maps and overlays is probably the best implementation method of this practice.

Developing the parameters of the COP:

  • Deciding what data to collect. The PRT intelligence staff officer (S-2) should hold a meeting with USAID, DOS, USDA, facility engineer team, police technical advisory team, and any other member of the PRT who has an interest in data collection. An assessment sheet should be developed from this meeting that synchronizes the collection efforts of all PRT members.
  • Determining what system to use to display the collected data. With today's technology, it is possible to collect data in a database and display that information using graphical overlays on a basic set of maps. The old-school method of using a map with overlays can be effective; however, it is not as easy to query the data that is collected in reports created in Microsoft Word.
  • Using a shared drive and establishing a standard naming convention. Rather than storing data under a personal logon, PRTs are setting up naming conventions for storing documents and keeping them on shared drives that can be backed up weekly. Standardizing this practice should be considered by higher headquarters. This standardization will help with retaining information that seems to be constantly lost as people depart the theater.
  • Use of Microsoft SharePoint. Through SharePoint, PRTs are able to use a specific domain to manage PRT information while having the ability to collaborate with other PRTs. The centralized information technology services management ensures one-time investment in technology and effective manning of the service from one location. Connectivity to this service should be made available to all PRTs.

Visual techniques:

  • PRT website. Data can be put on this website for others to see. The data can be updated weekly or biweekly. It is difficult to collect data based on the available resources each PRT has. Some PRTs do not have a large ex-patriot or local staff to do this task.
  • Falcon View. This program allows the PRT to create multiple overlays and digitally lay them over a standard set of maps. The system requires each piece of data to get plugged in with a global positioning system (GPS) grid but does not allow the user to query the system to see trends.
  • ARC View. Similar to Falcon View, but this program allows for categorizing data enabling the user to develop trend maps and identify key relationships between events. One PRT is currently using this technique with great success. This system requires having users who know how to categorize the data to make it useful to a decision maker. The key to success with this system is consistent data entry.
  • Web-Enabled Temporal Analysis System (WebTAS). This system is currently under development. One PRT is serving as the test site for implementation. WebTAS allows the PRT to create standard assessment forms that store information and allows the user to create multiple overlays and digitally lay them over a standard set of maps. The system requires each piece of data to get plugged in with a GPS grid but does not allow the user to query the system to see trends. Bandwidth is a limitation for using WebTAS.
  • Digital Battle Captain. This system is probably going to be the most useful COP program once it is fully developed. It includes daily event data collected from multiple sources across the operational area. However, the bandwidth at many locations will be a limitation.
  • Maps and overlays. Although this is a basic system, it gets the point across by using a limited number of overlays and color codes. In the absence of any other visual capability, this is a great option.
  • Microsoft PowerPoint. This is a low-tech way of displaying limited amounts of data. However, with the "build" feature, you can show what was done in the past, present, and future. You can also display information about key personalities and make personality cards that service members can carry with them on patrols. Once the baseline charts are created, PowerPoint is easy to update. It does not have any query capability.
  • Microsoft Word documents. This is the most used but least preferred method because it only creates a large amount of text data that cannot be easily queried. It forces new arrivals to read through all the data to pick out what they think is useful, which takes a new team a lot of time to gain operational knowledge of the province and tends to cause the loss of data over time.


  • External hard drives. The amount of storage space required is extremely large when using better types of software. External hard drives are also very useful for PRTs to backup their data rather than trying to do it on CD-Rs. Storing map sets on external hard drives can help with bandwidth issues.
  • Bandwidth. Many of these data systems require data to be maintained at locations with limited amounts of bandwidth. As a result, the practical use of these automated systems is reduced, if not totally diminished, because it takes too long to get the data.
  • Plotters. Currently, PRTs do not have the equipment needed to print large-scale copies of their COP, even if they have the software to create one. Some PRTs have started requesting production of their large-scale products off site; however, this is often very time-consuming. One PRT has a geographic information system (GIS) section working at the PRT with a plotter and appropriate software. This section can produce almost any product within hours of a request. An investment in a GIS section and plotter would be a worthwhile investment.
  • Software. Based on the large number of software packages available and the cost involved in buying them, it would be extremely beneficial if the combined joint task force or geographic combatant commander would pick a standard package and purchase it for everyone. Training and technical support are required to support the system. Feedback from the field is necessary to keep the system relevant.
  • Operators. There are limited numbers of trained operators on the useful software packages described above. Without a dedicated trained operator, expectations of the actual usefulness of these systems are not realistic. Standardized data collection is the key to making these systems work. Without trained personnel, it is often better to just fall back on less technical methods of collecting and displaying data. However, the long-term usability and scalability of these low-tech methods is limited.

Involving the provincial governor:

  • Collecting data from the PG. It is essential the PRT have a copy of the Provincial Development Strategy. These data points should be put on a map to show how the province will progress in the future. Historical reconstruction and development data is important to allow the PG to see progress and for PRTs to see what has been accomplished in the past.
  • Sharing the COP with the PG. Developing a reconstruction and development COP and sharing it with the PG and other donors is essential because the military has the best map-making equipment in the country. Often, the lack of maps (or the use of different maps) causes the PG and donors to misunderstand each other because the actual location of a reconstruction and development project is not known.

Transitioning practice to the next PRT:

  • Ensure during the RIP that new PRT members are trained on the system used to develop the COP and they fully understand how to maintain the data and why it is important. This common reference is essential to keep things running smoothly as well as to ease future transitions. Good historical files should be built to assist new PRT members during their transition into their specific jobs.
  • This system can be shared during the PDSS, allowing incoming PRT elements to start training on the system and have relevant data before they arrive in theater. It also helps for new arrivals to have a basic understanding of their AOR.

Lesson Learned:

Coordinated long-term planning is critical to the success of PRTs, but most PRT metrics and performance evaluations do not credit planning.

Observations and Insights:

  • This system can be shared during the PDSS, allowing incoming PRT elements to start training on the system and have relevant data before they arrive in theater. It also helps for new arrivals to have a basic understanding of their AOR.
  • Civilian-military strategic planning appears not to be taken seriously. "There was this formal process that was supposed to be done as civil-military planning. But I'll tell you that the PRT and everyone in the province regarded this as a box to check to get the people above them off their backs and then we were going to go about our daily business."
  • Metrics value performance over planning: "Every time a new commander comes in, he's got to have his fitness report and he's going to do a lot of things to drive the numbers. He can't just say, 'I made this governor a better governor.' He's got to say, 'I built this many schools, I built this many miles of roads.' Metrics, metrics, metrics."
  • Civilian-military planning cells only work well if they feed directly into the operational planning.
  • Civilian-military planning must be balanced between civilians and military, otherwise the "civilian voice [is] drowned out."
  • Civilian-military planning is a challenge for two main reasons. First, it is difficult to coordinate strategies of civilian and military personnel. Second, planning for medium and long-term projects is difficult when personnel regularly are rotating out, and on different timelines.
  • Although there are civil-military planning cells, some interviewees regarded these as impractical activities that did not result in true coordinated or long-term planning and did not drive resource or funding allocation. Instead, most projects are short-term projects that can be completed within single deployments and have measurable effects (e.g., miles of roads and number of schools), even if these are not the most critical programs needed.
  • This is largely due to the quick personnel turnover (9 to 12 month deployments), incentive mechanisms to show measurable improvements within individuals' deployments, inability to access funding and logistic support on a long-term basis to support long-term projects, and the inability to maintain oversight of the long-term projects that are recommended by the local population within a particular AO.
  • The lack of long-term planning is part of the criticism that PRTs are fighting "one-year wars" instead of having a sustained, continuous effort to build capacity in their AOs.


  • Combining country agency offices related to PRTs (DOS, DOD, USAID, Department of Justice, USDA, etc.) under one roof may help alleviate some of the problems associated with planning and resourcing.
  • Since there cannot be effective planning without continuity of personnel, personnel at the national level (OPA-level) should serve longer tours.

Lesson Learned:

Managing Multiple Projects. The task of managing multiple projects to support capacity building and development in its AOR is challenging for a PRT.

Observations and Insights:

CERP will not play an important role in Iraq as we enter a new fiscal year and the anticipated drawdown of U.S. troops.

  • The provinces are moving towards a liberal market-oriented economy, whereby provinces are requesting foreign direct investment. In Diwaniyah, the Provincial Investment Commission is the local entity in charge of private investment. Many provinces do not have actual data to collect that will support the proper development of economic projects. PRT experts can assist with the data collection. It is important that we put up front the Iraq face and the PRT monitors the process of private investment that will lead to economic growth.

Going forward, PRT's effort should focus primarily on capacity building and ensuring the Iraqis take ownership of their tasks and have all the support to complete processes end to end.

The PRT staff must efficiently and effectively manage available resources, including delivering projects at the desired quality levels, building project management capacity in the PG staff, and building capacity in host-country enterprises.

One PRT addressed this problem by viewing CERP project management as an end-to-end process from the project formation/generation phase through project closeout and post-delivery monitoring. PRTs are to consider other sources of funding besides CERP, such as QRF. It would be best to incorporate similar methodology, although funding sources may be different. USAID's Iraq Rapid Assistance Program proved to be of great resource. The PRT could utilize Defense Agencies Initiative to manage and monitor complex projects that required frequent visits to the sites.

The PRT has organized a project delivery cell with defined roles and a mix of technical project management and control skills.

Key supporting processes:

  • Standard design for projects. USAID and the U.N. Office for Project Services have standard designs that use simple construction techniques and local materials. One PRT keeps an archive of all standard designs for a range of possible projects (e.g., schools, basic health care clinics, and micro-hydroelectric plants).
  • Pre-bid supplier conference. Use the conference to describe the project, the expected skills required to deliver, and quality expectations. Set expectations and describe the way PRTs work; progress payments; and the quality dispute process.
  • Bidders' conference. One PRT expands the pre-bid conference into a training session. The PRT developed a training manual that is distributed at the pre-tender bidders' conference. Attendance qualifies the contractor to bid on CERP projects. The certification course aims to orient potential contractors, set their expectations, and prepare them for successful performance on CERP projects.
  • Supplier information management. Provide contractor/supplier profiles with pictures for positive identification. Maintain records on each supplier, to include previous work performed and references from other work. Assess and record previous level of performance and capabilities (e.g., trades covered and geographic scope of operations).
  • Build detailed request for proposal/quote. State quality expectations in bid documents so cost of quality can be reflected in the contractors' pricing. Communicate the quality expectations in the request for proposal/quote document. Reinforce the message again during the certification course.


Organize project delivery cell:

  • Develop project documents. Plan project documents in adequate detail to support clear communication with potential bidders (i.e., provide contractors with the scope and requirements for the project). These documents can be used to support the bidders' conference and the core of the bid package.
  • Plan and hold bidders' conference. Organize and hold the conference. Rehearse the presentation of the bid documents with the interpreters to ensure requirements are clearly communicated. Leave enough time for clarifying questions from the contractors. Answer all contractor queries in public, allowing the entire group to hear all questions and the same answers. Explain the ground rules for bid and who is on the selection committee.
  • Gathering and managing project and supplier information. In most provinces some line ministry directors are able to work effectively with the PRT. Assess the PG line directors and their staffs to determine their willingness to work transparently with the PRT. Use DOS representatives to help assess current PG staff, and maintain the influence-relationship map of key provincial officials.

Use available resources (e.g., time, CERP/QRA funding, and associations) to influence and reinforce good behavior:

  • CERP/QRA projects. Work with provincial line ministry directors to assess the province's needs and develop a prioritized development plan that emphasizes primary needs first, (e.g., electricity and water). Encourage provincial line ministry directors and other PG officials to follow their prioritized development plan. Build sustainable systems by thinking through the resources for construction and the operating cost to maintain the system. Lack of focus on the sustainability and operations capacity of the host nation may result in the development of assets, which while undoubtedly are sorely needed, cannot be staffed, equipped, or utilized.
  • Developing institutional capacity. Collaborative project work and mentoring programs can help build skills with other PG members. After gaining buy-in with staff collaborations from the governor and key line ministry directors, form the appropriate working team to develop and manage projects. Ensure the governor and key line ministry directors are kept informed through open progress meetings. By inviting larger participation from the line ministries, the PG can develop greater knowledge and experience in project development and management.
  • Consider phased development/investment to control funds. Phased project execution allows the PRT to invest in projects that are being managed with required transparency and effectiveness. Involving local leaders in shaping projects and creating local work crews can yield the optimum economic benefit while allowing good project controls of CERP/QRA funds. This phased approach also allows adequate time for teaching.

Lesson Learned:

Build capacity by maximizing assets. To maximize all available assets and capabilities that exist in a province, the PRT coordinates capacity building and development activities with other units.

Observations and Insights:

  • PRTs require practical information collection and display tools to provide a common understanding of the situation in a particular province. Graphically displaying current information enables better operations planning and reconstruction and development. Lack of transition data by the RIP unit causes a need to collect data about the province.
  • Within the combined/joint operations area, maneuver units own the entire PRT operational environment. Lines of command can become blurred without higher headquarters clearly defining who is in charge. In instances where the PRT and a maneuver unit are collocated, the maneuver commander is the senior commander. In most of these instances, the PRT operates at a reduced level of manpower because it is collocated with a maneuver element.
  • However, the difference in missions between the two units can make both parties ineffective without properly coordinating operations. If the PRT is not collocated with a maneuver element and has its full complement of force protection, it is still essential to know what other operational elements are doing in the province.


The maneuver element operations staff officer (S-3) hosts a weekly meeting that includes the PRT and any maneuver elements in the AO. The meeting is essential because it allows all elements to deconflict their operations over the next week as well as provide support when something happens that requires emergency assistance. The meeting also allows all parties to share information that others might find irrelevant; however, since attendees may be working in different parts of the province and/or working with different people, they ultimately will have information to share that all will find important. The meeting also allows units to find gaps and seams that can be mitigated to help share limited resources. Some future steps in this process would be to include the host government security force so it can learn how to conduct such a meeting and synchronize data sharing.

Coordinating the concept:

  • Selecting a program lead. The PRT S-3 is the best person to be the program lead. The CAT-A team leader might want to attend to gather information firsthand from the meeting.
  • PG interest. This meeting has no primary use to the PG; however, information from it could be used by the maneuver element and the PRT to assist them at the provincial security coordination body.
  • Conduct of the meeting. The maneuver S-3 hosts the meeting at his location and sets the weekly agenda. Attendees include the maneuver S-3, PRT S-3, embedded training team, and any other coalition force representatives in the province. All invitees must be able to review their missions and patrols for the next two weeks so a COP of events can be determined and deconflicted. When the maneuver element and the PRT are collocated, more time should be spent coordinating missions and patrols because the maneuver element must provide force protection for the PRT to accomplish its mission. This requirement for force protection can be greatly impacted if the maneuver commander has a different plan and is relying on these same limited resources.
  • Transitioning practice to the next PRT. Review the meeting agenda with new personnel and cover the due-outs for the next meeting. Also, provide historical meeting notes to show the intent of the meeting and its usefulness.

Lesson Learned:

Extending the reach of the PRT. The PRT must reach to outlying or remote districts within its province.

Observations and Insights:

  • By design, PRTs are located close to the provincial capitol. As security improves, the PRTs are able to travel to villages more frequently. It is important the PRT focus for its new strategy on the local villages and most vulnerable outside the provincial capitol. The PRT will play a key role in bringing the local issues from the bottom to the top.
  • One PRT established three remote patrol bases within the province to help project the presence and impact of the PRT. The patrol bases are located in safe houses, guarded full-time by hired security forces, or collocated on a national police compound. The patrol is commanded by a major with about a 20-person organization and staffed with other PRT skill sets as required. The patrol leader constantly engages the local population and collects information for the PRT.
  • The remote patrol base concept allows relationships to form and grow with the local population. It also allows the PRT to make regular assessments and conduct quality control checks on remote projects. Patrols stay out for about three weeks at a time and then return to the PRT site for resupply. The same people return to their remote patrol base to ensure relationships are maintained with the locals. Because many of the remote locations are snowed in during the winter, the PRT shuts down the patrol bases except for the local security force. The PRT also reduces its staff in the winter months when the location of the remote bases is not trafficable.


Location of remote patrol bases. Selection of remote patrol base locations should be based on where they can have the most impact on the local population.

Lesson Learned:

Security environment. A dangerous security environment is a key impediment to the success of a PRT. It prevents PRT members from regularly meeting with local officials and overseeing projects. A poor/deteriorating security environment also reduces the population's confidence in the effectiveness of its central and local government institutions.

Observations and Insights:

  • A majority of interviewees commented that the security situation often made movement difficult for civilian members of the PRT. One USDA PRT member operating in Iraq said, "Movement was the one thing that was most difficult. Competition for security among the PRTs. On ground moves, I had four mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicles with up to 16 armed guards.
  • Another theme resonating in the interviews is that a poor security situation limits improvements in governance and development and damages the local community's connection with the government. One Navy PRT commander in Afghanistan stated, "The worsening security situation hampered development efforts and efforts to advance governance. The decrease in security was causing the government to lose its connection with the people of the province, and this was a significant concern."
  • A PRT member in Iraq noted similarly that, "Unless there is a secure environment, improvements in governance are going to be limited. And how can you have true economic development? Security will remain the top issue. On the other hand, heavy security and military presence may lead to less flexibility and less ability to interact with the local officials."
  • It is also critical that PRT members are viewed to be sharing the same risks as the population they are supporting. A PRT member in Iraq stated, "Part of the problem for PRTs like us that were wholly dependent on the military for security, is that the military has just about zero flexibility to deviate from their template. And a number of Iraqis in Karbala would say, 'Why do you do this? Karbala's safe now. You don't have to do this anymore.' Our military guys would agree with us, but we can't make an exception, even if we wanted to."
  • According to the most recent DOD report on stability and security in Iraq, security incidents remain at the lowest levels in more than five years, and progress in the security environment remains generally steady but uncertain.


  • Civilians should participate in all stages of mission planning to ensure civilian missions are viewed as a priority. All members of the PRT must recognize that interacting with local officials in the field is the primary PRT mission. "I was at virtually every meeting that we had with the commander. Usually I sat in the command center, and that's what I would recommend for people like me going out: sit in the command center."
  • Clearly communicate mission and requirements to security personnel. "We actually did owe these young soldiers much more information, better briefings about what exactly we were doing, because I think it helped. And they appreciated when we would take the time to say, 'We're going to a meeting with the governor, we're going to a meeting with the head of this NGO and this is what it's about, this is what's at stake.'"
  • Reduce the visible security footprint. When the security situation permits, PRT members must be prepared to share risk with the local population they are working with. When appropriate, risk can be mitigated with unmarked vehicles, perhaps utilizing private security.

Lesson Learned:

The U.N. does not have an effective presence on the ground because of a lack of resources and an inability (or unwillingness) to fully carry out its activities in a non-permissive environment.

Observations and Insights:

  • Respondents said that a lack of resources and personnel at the U.N. in both Afghanistan and Iraq - specifically UNAMA and the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq - was a primary reason that effective cooperation with PRTs was not possible. One individual felt that the low number of U.N. personnel outside of the capitols of both nations prevented both U.N. missions from having a truly "national presence." Another respondent, working in Afghanistan, said that given the U.N.'s lack of resources in the field, "Afghans don't take UNAMA that seriously."
  • One respondent felt that the U.N.'s slow pace of work was a major hindrance to effective collaboration. While this individual highlighted that UNAMA "has a similar integrated approach effort, trying to figure out how they can expand their effort to some of the more remote provinces," this respondent went on to explain a telling frustration: "We can't wait for UNAMA's integrated approach, because we just don't have the time and patience of the U.S. taxpayers and Congress to wait for them to move at their pace to determine exactly what they're going to do in these districts. We need to move out with our effort in the districts faster in order to make a difference sooner."
  • One respondent from Iraq described working "very hard to get the U.N. to be a player," but said that eventually the U.N.'s collective reluctance and overwhelming security requirements got in the way.
  • One interviewee viewed bringing together the U.S. military and the U.N. as his "biggest accomplishment," noting that he (and his successor) "established very close working relationships with other international partners ... to make sure that what the brigade was doing was tied together with what the U.N. and other international organizations were doing, but also tied to what the Afghan priorities and strategy were."
  • The only positive feedback regarding PRT-U.N. interactions came from an individual who had a "mutually supportive" and "very tight working relationship" with a UNAMA desk officer overseeing the same AO.
  • The negative reactions of these individuals regarding the perceived inability to establish high levels of cooperation between PRTs and U.N. bodies in Afghanistan and Iraq reflect the difficulties inherent in U.N. engagement in conflict/post-conflict situations. On the other hand, they also reflect problems in American PRTs' collective ability (and often inexperience) in interacting productively with outside actors in the field - such as those representing nongovernmental and international organizations like the U.N.
  • Moreover, the observations of these respondents also reflect the fact that, generally, PRTs are working with a different amount of resources - and within a different timeframe - than U.N. missions. The Special Advisor on Development to the Special Representative of the Secretary General for UNAMA once conceded that UNAMA has problems asserting its presence and its priorities given its relative lack of funding (when compared to PRTs). However, he also highlighted the fact that UNAMA personnel have the great advantage of continuity - many of their field staffs have held their positions for four or five years, while American PRT personnel rarely hold their positions for more than a year.


Given the general ability of U.N. missions to maintain longer-term operations in host countries, PRT members should consistently try to search for and encourage areas of overlap between their own activities and those of U.N. bodies in Iraq and Afghanistan in an effort to increase the sustainability of potentially shared projects. One interviewee proudly noted the "dramatic improvement" in relations with local Afghans when members of the military made concerted efforts to work with the U.N. and NGOs in one area. This includes fostering relationships with those UNAMA personnel that seem especially willing to engage in real collaboration, as one UNAMA desk officer described (see last observation).

Lesson Learned:

Allied PRTs have different missions, rules of engagement, and concepts of operations, and there is no mechanism to compel cooperation.

Observations and Insights:

  • ISAF has limited resources, and those authorities approved by NATO are granted by participating nations.
  • Individual countries cut deals with ISAF about the terms of their involvement, and allies have "sold" their involvement based on different understandings of the mission. The German mission, for example, has been seen as a "humanitarian, reconstruction mission, not a war mission."
  • Allies have varying experiences dealing in an international environment. "The U.K. [United Kingdom] is used to a strong international presence;" many of our newer allies are not.
  • Rules of engagement (ROEs) vary greatly. One nation's PRT was mentioned a couple of times as "not willing to go outside the wire." Others need permission from their respective capitols to assist other countries' personnel and PRTs.
  • There is a distinct lack of continuity of effort due to widely varying tours of duty among allies, anywhere from six months to two years.
  • Because of differences of missions, many allies have limited interaction with the local population.
  • Furthermore, there is a cultural divide between civilian and military personnel on many PRTs. One noted that the "U.S. military had a less respectful attitude towards civilians than their counterpart militaries," e.g., U.K., Canadian, and Dutch.
  • The U.N. has such a high security requirement that its presence and influence are minimal.


  • Build upon/resource/operationalize NATO's comprehensive approach envisioned in the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC), including credible and functional theater-level capabilities, e.g., flexible command and control and robust civilian-military capabilities (subject-matter experts, deployable civilian experts, and regular exercises).
  • Establish a common ISAF mission statement, database, mechanism, ROEs, etc. aimed at fostering cooperation among PRTs and with ISAF headquarters.
  • Establish a consistent or at least coordinated ISAF tour-of-duty policy of at least one year in Afghanistan and future conflicts.
  • Increase common training opportunities for NATO and allied personnel at the multilateral (e.g., NATO and the European Union) and national level.

Lesson Learned:

Interactions and communications with NGOs. The most critical aspects for encouraging rewarding communications with NGO actors are PRT personnel establishing the nature of their relationships with individual NGOs in their AOs.

Observations and Insights:

  • Three of the individuals interviewed gave positive portrayals of their interactions and communication with NGO actors in their AOs. One interviewee described the benefits of gathering information from local NGO actors, highlighting that NGOs were often more able to directly connect with members of the community than PRT personnel. This interviewee specifically mentioned good communication with an Afghan NGO called the tribal liaison office: "They do excellent provincial surveys. ... They came and briefed us on their study. They sent people out ... for several weeks. ... They came back and put together the results of their study, and it gave you a really good political, ethnographic lay of the land." One interviewee described learning a great deal from NGO actors by communicating with them about the ways in which they adapted their operations to local conditions: "[They] obviously know how to play the game. ... They adapted their operations, their hiring practices, their movement, and their security to be able to operate. ...I would contact them frequently. We would learn a lot from them."
  • Another interviewee gave great credit to a USAID representative at one PRT for reaching out to NGOs in their area and creating a shared database of all projects the PRT and many NGOs were carrying out in their shared space. This interviewee highlights the fact that this USAID officer was predisposed to assist in this way because he actually worked with an NGO in the country before joining USAID on the PRT: "... Because he had that kind of background, he could speak more freely with NGOs. He was able to pull together a database of projects that were being carried out in Ghazni from about 2005 to the present, which included input from the NGOs. So we had some idea of where some of these NGO projects were. That way we wouldn't duplicate their efforts or stumble on to them."
  • Four other interviewees, on the other hand, felt that their communication with NGOs was severely hampered by antagonistic perceptions, security constraints, and a general reluctance to upset ongoing NGO activities. One interviewee described the pronounced hostility among some NGO actors toward PRTs by saying, "They feel a very strong sense of territory, not geographical but thematic territory, and will assert, fairly often and whenever asked, that the PRTs are ruining the humanitarian aid relationship." Furthermore, two individuals described the great difficulty in communicating with NGOs - even when both sides were interested in cooperating - given security constraints on PRT personnel. And another interviewee noted that his PRT colleagues actually took great pains to avoid NGO actors, for the perceived benefit of those NGOs: "We really went out of our way to avoid them. ... We didn't want to cause them problems. We had heard all through our training at Fort Bragg how the NGOs didn't want us stumbling on them, didn't want to be seen with us, because they felt that put them at great risk, so we honored that."
  • As noted in observations, in the best circumstances, PRT personnel can draw on the expertise and depth of local relationships that NGO actors have for valuable information concerning local actors as well as tactics and insight on ways to encouraging the right development projects throughout their shared workspace. Such efforts can be promoted by NGO-related experience among PRT members (such as the USAID official in Ghazni province) as well as by some NGOs (such as the tribal liaison office), who seem more willing than others to reach out to PRTs with information and support.
  • However, given the considerable obstacles to PRT and NGO communication in impermissible security environments, the best practice of PRT personnel may be to simply remain responsive to NGO prerogatives in their area and open to whatever communication is possible given realities on the ground.


  • The most successful examples of PRT-NGO interactions described in the interviews featured PRT personnel tailoring their relationships towards NGO actors contextually in ways that addressed the importance for NGOs of being perceived as independent.
  • Leaders at the PRT level could designate development-oriented personnel at each PRT (such as a USAID representative) to cultivate contacts with NGOs in the area, and when permissible, allow this person to make trips to local NGO offices. This individual could be a regular interlocutor between the PRT and NGOs in a given region, encouraging trust and communication through a more personal connection.
  • Encourage coordination with NGOs by having PRT personnel initiate and maintain a collaborative project to create a full and open database of all development projects being carried out by both PRT and NGO actors throughout a given area.


1. PRT Best Practices Indicators handout from the ISAF Joint Command Provincial Reconstruction Team Conference, 16-17 March 2010. Downloaded 17 August 2010 from "https://".


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