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Handbook 07-34
September 2007

Chapter 1


The higher goal of military and civil action is to win over the population, while killing the insurgents is a supporting or shaping effort. In other words, hostile individuals do not create hostile populations, rather, hostile populations will continue to create hostile leaders until the source of the hostility is alleviated. 

A provincial reconstruction team (PRT) is an interim civil-military organization designed to operate in semi-permissive environments usually following open hostilities. The PRT is intended to improve stability in a given area by helping build the host nation’s legitimacy and effectiveness in providing security to its citizens and delivering essential government services. 

Military forces conduct complementary stability, offensive, and defensive activities as components of full-spectrum operations. Each campaign and major operation requires original and varying combinations of the components of full-spectrum operations appropriate to the situation. Full-spectrum operations are based on the continuous interaction between friendly forces; adversaries; all the U.S., international, and nongovernmental civilian agencies; host nation civil authorities concerned with the outcome; and the populations of areas affected. Civil authorities range from strategic-level leaders to local government officials to religious leaders. Affected populations may be of differing tribes or nations and of states on the periphery of the conflict. 

Military forces must defeat enemies and simultaneously help shape the civil situation through stability operations. Shaping the civil situation in concert with other U.S. government agencies, international organizations, civil authorities, and multinational forces is important to campaign success. Stability operations may complement and reinforce offensive and defensive operations, or they may be the main effort of an operation. These operations may take place before, during, and after major combat operations and seek to secure the support of civil populations in unstable areas. Forces engaged in an operation predominated by stability tasks may have to conduct offensive and defensive operations to defend themselves or destroy forces seeking to challenge the stability mission. Following hostilities, forces conduct stability operations to provide a secure environment for U.S., coalition, multinational, and local civil authorities as they work to achieve reconciliation, rebuild lost infrastructure, and resume vital services. 

The focus of these combined military and civil efforts is to diminish the means and motivations for conflict, while developing local institutions so they can take the lead role in national governance (provide basic services, foster economic development, and enforce the rule of law). Success depends ultimately on the host nation and on the interrelationship and interdependence of the ensuing dynamics: 

  • The legitimacy of the government and its effectiveness as perceived by the local population and the international community. 
  • The perceived legitimacy of the freedoms and constraints placed on the force supporting the government. 
  • The degree to which factions, the local population, and other actors accede to the authority of the government and those forces supporting the government. 

There are times when hostilities continue to exist in many forms during stability-focused operations because of warlords, tribal competition, ethnic rivalries, outlaws, terrorists, or insurgents. This can leave areas of a country caught in the middle of the transition between major combat and relative stability. Combat operations are very much “on again/off again” across parts of the country, and there are areas that have not stabilized significantly and are at risk of “slipping back” if security forces are removed. However, moving these areas further along is beyond the expertise and capabilities of any one department or agency. The military can operate in these unstable areas but lacks development skills. Diplomatic and development agencies have these skills but are unable to operate in these areas using their traditional delivery mechanisms because of the instability. Therefore, this complex environment requires an integrated civilian-military operation focused on achieving sufficient stability to allow reconstruction and development to begin. 

PRTs were devised in 2002 as a means to solve this problem. A PRT stabilizes an area through its integrated civilian-military focus. It combines the diplomatic, military, and developmental components of the various agencies involved in the stabilization and reconstruction effort. The PRT is designed to help improve stability by building up the capacity of the host nation to govern; enhance economic viability; and deliver essential public services, such as security, law and order, justice, health care, and education. Once the stability objectives have been fulfilled, PRTs can begin to dismantle and the traditional diplomatic and developmental programs will operate within their normal venues. 

This playbook provides a knowledge base to individuals operating in, adjacent to, or in support of a PRT, enabling these individuals to work effectively as a team to achieve the purpose of the PRT and providing PRT members with shared operational guidelines and insights into PRT best practices.


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