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Handbook 11-16
February 2011

Chapter 1 - Introduction

A provincial reconstruction team (PRT) is an interim civil-military organization designed to operate in semipermissive environments usually following open hostilities. The PRT is intended to improve stability in a given area by helping build the host nation's capacity; reinforcing the host nation's legitimacy and effectiveness; and bolstering that the host nation can provide security to its citizens and deliver essential government services. The PRT assists provincial-level governments meet the expectations of their citizens. In Afghanistan, provincial-level governments are applying a synergistic, whole-of-government approach that encompasses the following objectives for Afghanistan:

  • Establish a sovereign, stable, and self-reliant government.
  • Commitment to a just, representative, and accountable government.
  • Avoid being a safe haven or sponsor of terrorism.
  • Become integrated into the global economy.
  • Contribute to regional peace and security.

U.S. national policy focuses on transitioning from military to civilian lead in Afghanistan. The focus of the whole-of-government approach is to diminish the means and motivations for conflict, while developing local institutions to take the lead role in national governance (i.e., 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.

The strategy for Afghanistan identifies the following policy priorities for PRTs:

  • Focusing on improving stability by reducing the causes of instability, conflict, and insurgency while simultaneously increasing the local government's institutional capacity to handle these on its own.
  • Strengthening the capacity of Afghan governmental and civil society institutions to protect the rule of law, confront corruption, and deliver basic services.
  • Linking the people with their government while transforming the environment to ensure both of these efforts are enduring.
  • Actively engaging and helping develop, in concert with other development actors, the capacity of the governor, Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan officials, provincial councils, provincial development committees, district development assemblies, community development committees, shuras, and other established and/or traditional bodies.
  • Providing a platform for the United Nations (UN) and other organizations seeking access to provinces. Committing to consulting and/or working with international partners to include intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations such as North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
  • Encouraging investment and economic diversification with regulatory frameworks and investment promotion.
  • Reporting ground-truth data and providing accurate assessments.

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. The traditional diplomatic and developmental programs then will operate within their normal venues.

This handbook 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 achieving the purpose of the PRT and providing PRT members with shared operational guidelines and insights into PRT best practices.

Operations in Afghanistan are complex and evolving. This handbook is a supplement and subordinate to current International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) orders, instructions, guidance, and importantly the ISAF PRT Handbook. The lead countries have latitude on the methods and practices employed by the PRTs under their supervision. Defer to those local structures, methods, and practices. This handbook provides information useful to PRT members and contains lessons learned and best practices.

History of Afghanistan PRTs

PRTs find their origin in the coalition humanitarian liaison cells established by U.S. military forces in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in early 2002. A dozen Army civil affairs (CA) Soldiers staffed these small outposts, dubbed "Chiclets," with the task to assess humanitarian needs, implement small-scale reconstruction projects, and establish relations with the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and nongovernmental organizations already in the field.1

In late 2002, in an effort to augment the CA effort, the United States expanded this program with the creation of the first PRTs. The first PRT was established in Gardez in November 20022 and became fully operational on 1 February 2003. The PRT was collocated with U.S. Special Forces "A" team members. A CA team provided the daily contact with locals and tribal leaders. A contingent of the 82nd Airborne Division provided security in and around the compound. The sole civilian when the PRT became fully operational was from the Department of State. The U.S. Agency for International Development provided a contractor in March 2003; later that year, three agricultural experts from the Department of Agriculture joined this and other PRTs. 3

PRTs in Bamyan, Kunduz, Mazar-e-Sharif, Kandahar, and Herat followed throughout 2003. These initial sites were chosen to provide a U.S. military and central government presence among key locations, including Afghanistan's four primary ethnic groups, the former Taliban headquarters, and the base of the country's most difficult warlord, Ishmael Khan. 4

Late in 2003, the number of PRTs rose dramatically. The expansion was coincident with the arrival of Zalmay Khalilzad as U.S. ambassador in Kabul, and a push by the U.S. military to flatten its force posture throughout the country while still maintaining a relatively light footprint.5

As the PRT program took off, the United States began to hand over some PRTs to coalition allies. In December 2003, the ISAF took over command of the German-led PRT in Kunduz. By October 2006, ISAF had command over all PRTs.6

PRTs have been expanded throughout most of the provinces in Afghanistan. The first PRT laid the critical cornerstones to future PRT initiatives throughout Afghanistan.


1. Robert M. Perito, "The U.S. Experience with Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Afghanistan: Lessons Identified,"United States Institute of Peace Special Report 152, October 2005, page 2.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. Vance Serchuk, "Innovative teams are building goodwill at the grass-roots level," Armed Force Journal, November 2005.

6. ISAF History, "", accessed 29 July 2010.


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