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Handbook 07-34
September 2007

Chapter 2

Concept and Intent

The provincial reconstruction team (PRT) concept envisions an integrated civil-military organization expanding the reach of the U.S. government (USG) and the wider international community assistance efforts from the environs of the capitol to the provincial level to the local community. A PRT is generally responsible for covering one province but may have responsibility for two or more provinces or a large segment of a single province. 

The PRT does not act as an alternative to a host nation’s government but rather seeks to improve the governing capacity of the host nation. PRTs perform a vital role in occupying the vacuum caused by a weak government presence and hence deter agents of instability. The PRT focuses on three elements of stabilization and reconstruction: 

  • Increase provincial stability through international military presence and assist in developing nascent host nation security and rule of law capacity. 
  • Assist the establishment and improvement of local government, including its connection to the central government and populace, by advising and empowering stakeholders and legitimate governing bodies, influencing “fence sitters,” and countering obstructionists and spoilers. 
  • Facilitate reconstruction at a pace that begins to: 
    • Provide basic services. 
    • Provide an economic system that supports the people. 
    • Gain popular buy-in for change and support of representative government. 
    • Ensure popular expectations for international assistance are met or abated. 

The PRT is also not a development agency. The PRT’s role is to ensure international efforts are in line with the host nation’s development intentions and, in doing so, assess and act on the constraints to development. As the security environment improves, the PRT is intended to phase out as stabilization and reconstruction programs shift to longer-term development programs. The PRT ceases to exist when normal development operations can be carried out without its assistance. This evolution in execution of the PRT mission requires a change in focus and an increased number of civilians with core competencies to address the development aspects of stabilization and reconstruction. 


Operations are dynamic and may not progress in a linear manner. Different parts of a country may require different combinations of offensive, defensive, and stability operations to transition from violent conflict toward stability and ultimately to peace. Full-spectrum operations involve simultaneous combinations of offense, defense, and stability operations. 

The components of full-spectrum operations are not considered phases. Commanders consider the concurrent conduct of the components of full-spectrum operations in every phase of an operation. As the operational focus shifts from predominantly offensive and defensive to predominantly stability tasks, operational gaps can exist that prevent the development of an indigenous capability and capacity that supports the country’s transition to peace. Areas of the country can get “stuck” in instability, and the danger exists that they may “slip back” into open hostilities if security forces are removed. Ideally, stability operations in these areas lay the groundwork for long-term transformational development efforts designed to ensure the area does not “slip back” into instability or violent conflict (see Figure 2-1 below).1 

Graphic - Spectrum of intervention
Figure 2-1: Spectrum of intervention 

However, the operational gaps that lead to an area getting “stuck” in instability often exist because no actors aside from the military can operate in unstable areas.  In order for the military to pass off responsibility for an area (i.e., exercise its exit strategy), it must deliver some level of stability. Moving these areas further along is beyond the expertise and capabilities of the military. While such expertise does reside in diplomatic and development agencies, these agencies are unable to operate in these areas using their traditional delivery mechanisms because of the instability. 

PRTs were devised in 2002 as a mechanism that could solve this problem. Because of the combined capabilities of the diplomacy, military, and development components, PRTs are able to stabilize these areas. When the capabilities brought by the military component of the PRT are no longer needed, the military component can withdraw, and the diplomatic and development components can revert to more traditional means to pursue their aims. This process is gradual. PRTs in more unstable areas may require the capabilities of the military component for longer periods of time. In stable areas, where security is sustainable by the local government and civilian agencies are capable of accomplishing their tasks without military assistance, PRTs can and should begin to draw down their military component. 

The PRT is neither a combat nor a development institution. A PRT may perform combat and development in the pursuit of stability, but these activities are not the goal of the PRT. 

The PRT is an interim structure 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 PRT stability objectives have been fulfilled, its mission is complete, and the PRT structure can be dismantled. 

PRTs are extremely expensive in terms of personnel, maintenance, and activity costs. Therefore, it is incumbent on the embassy country team, military chain of command, troop contributing nations, participating agencies, and PRT leadership teams to keep PRTs focused on their ultimate goal and avoid all activities that do not directly contribute to accomplishing their mission. 


Once the PRT is established, the first requirement is to gain access to local power centers and assess the environment to determine the issues that the PRT should address, as well as the challenges and obstacles impacting on these issues. A PRT plan is developed to achieve desired effects within the environment. The civil-military team, using the core competencies provided by Department of State, Department of Defense, U.S. Agency for International Development, and other agencies, should complete both assessment and strategy development. An implementation plan guided by the provincial stability strategy is then developed based on a realistic time frame for the anticipated tenure of the PRT and the dynamics of the area of responsibility (AOR).  

The implementation plan continues to be adjusted by successive leaderships based on the changing nature of the AOR. The plan should account for national strategies including USG, international, host government, and work being done in adjacent provinces or regions. The optimal situation is to have a plan, owned and at least in part drafted by the PRT’s local interlocutors, that supports a local strategy for the province. The assessment, strategy, and implementation plan should be reviewed and refined at regular intervals by the civil-military team. 

This process ensures that the civil-military team achieves a common operating picture of the AOR and a common vision on how to affect the environment, which in turn provides for unity of effort within the PRT. The PRT determines its resource needs based on the assessment and the subsequent plan it develops. PRT leaders should identify issues that are beyond their capacity to successfully affect and request assistance, as necessary, from the embassy country team, higher military headquarters, or both. In addition, they should review how their plan will support or enhance national programs either by providing information or by facilitating implementation of national-level assistance. 


Execution of the mission should be designed around reaching the objectives; designated tasks and intent provided in higher-level direction; and the implementation of activities designed, in part or in whole, to achieve the effects necessary to attain PRT objectives. In general, most objectives will require efforts across multidisciplinary programs. For instance, achieving a desired effect may require: 1) political leverage on the government (local and/or central); 2) economic or development projects to mitigate the impact of a desired outcome; or 3) increased USG security presence or support to host nation forces to deter potential violence. Given the integrated capacity of a PRT, they are well-situated and should be fully resourced to achieve the following objectives: 

  • Improve stability. Determine the causes and means of conflict including resource competition, tribal/ethnic clashes, insurgency, criminal elements, and political instability; identify the triggers or opportunities to instigate conflict; determine ways to affect the causes and triggers; identify ways to mitigate or resolve the conflict; increase capacity of civil society and legitimate traditional processes to adjudicate and deter conflict. 
  • Increase local institutional capacity. Build individual, organizational, and structural capacity to provide public safety and basic services; where relevant, tie legitimate informal governance (traditional) leaders to nascent formal government organizations; tie appropriate reconstruction and stability projects to legitimate governing bodies. 
  • Facilitate reconstruction activities. Develop job creation programs for infrastructure activities; provide micro lending as soon as practicable; tie road improvements to commercial as well as political integration; and create value-added facilities to improve agriculture and natural resource capabilities within the local absorptive capacity. 
  • Execute a strong strategic communications program. Expand local information dissemination capacity, especially by local institutions (remember that actions speak louder than words); take advantage of face-to-face communication (where traditional and expected); get provincial leaders and authorities out to see district population and traditional leaders; tie reconstruction activities to legitimate governing bodies. 

End State 

The end state of a PRT occurs when the host nation’s provisions for security and public safety are sufficient to support traditional means of development, and political stability is sustainable after the withdrawal of international forces. The PRT should design measures of effectiveness that delineate the perception of safety, the reduction of security incidences that impact daily life, the capacity of the government to provide basic services and rule of law, and the popular acceptance of legitimate formal and informal organizations and leaders by both the majority of the population and disaffected elements of the population. 


1 Each PRT is at a different place on the spectrum of intervention, so the activities of each PRT must be wholly dependent upon local conditions.


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