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Handbook 11-16
February 2011

Chapter 3 - Guidance

Guidance for provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs) in Afghanistan comes from two directions. The primary guidance comes from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF); the secondary guidance comes from the member nations assigned to the various PRTs. As the funding for PRTs comes from member nations, the caveats that come from the political apparatus of those countries often drive how PRTs will operate often resulting in different types of operations being conducted from PRT to PRT. However, by agreement between member nations, there is an effort for all member nations to follow the precept established in the Afghan National Development Strategy (ANDS). The ANDS is Afghanistan's guiding document for achieving its reconstruction goals. The strategy focuses on improving the country's security, governance, economic growth, and reducing poverty. The ANDS also provides information on the resources needed to carry out the strategy and on the shortfall in Afghanistan's projected revenue. The ANDS was released in 2008 and is effective through 2013.

It is highly encouraged that PRT members be familiar with the ANDS. However, this handbook focuses on U.S. guidance and will address, where applicable, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)/ISAF guidance.

Guidance Framework

Within the U.S. government (USG), senior officials provide strategic guidance through cabinet-level principals' committees (PC) or deputies' committees (DC). The committees are chaired by the National Security Council (NSC) and reflect the strategic goals as laid out by the president. In turn, the PC or DC may task existing interagency policy coordinating committees or country reconstruction and stabilization groups to develop implementation based on the strategic guidance.

In the field, operational guidance normally runs through the relevant combatant command to a joint task force (JTF) or other appropriate formation on the military side and through the chief of mission (COM) or presidential envoy on the civilian side. Whichever department has the lead, all efforts at the field level should integrate the directives from both the supported and supporting departments. The geographic combatant command's strategic plan should delineate the agreed stability and political conditions necessary to shift the military from a supported command to a supporting command, wherein the COM will assume lead for USG efforts. Certain circumstances may result in the recognition of joint civilian-military command, preserving unity of effort if not unity of command.

National Command Authority may designate a specific USG department as the lead agency. In a situation where active combat is expected or underway, the Department of Defense (DOD) may be the lead with other agencies in a supporting role. Where the environment is clearly post-conflict and instability has diminished, the lead shifts to the Department of State (DOS), which is responsible for coordinating the efforts of other civilian departments and agencies.

Overarching Strategic Guidance1

It is within this framework that two relevant strategies were developed - the U.S. Strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan in March 2009 and Afghanistan and Pakistan Regional Stabilization Strategy in January/February 2010.

  • U.S. Strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan - This strategy is based on a policy review the president of the United States requested upon taking office. The goal of the strategy is to defeat, disrupt, and dismantle al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan and to prevent their return to either country. The strategy initiates a regional approach by linking Afghanistan and Pakistan in a common fight against violent extremists. It incorporates input from the Afghan and Pakistani governments, NATO, and international partners and organizations in Afghanistan. The strategy emphasizes economic assistance to Pakistan as well as an expectation that Pakistan will combat al-Qaida and violent extremists in sanctuaries in Pakistan. For Afghanistan, the strategy commits to increasing U.S. troop levels to fight extremists along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, train Afghan security forces, and provide civilian experts to help the Afghan government. In December 2009, the president reaffirmed this strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan and announced the planned deployment of additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan to target the insurgency, secure key population centers, and train Afghan security forces. The president also stated the additional troops would accelerate efforts and allow the transfer of U.S. forces out of Afghanistan beginning in July 2011. He reaffirmed the need to pursue a more effective civilian strategy and focus assistance in areas, such as agriculture, that could make an immediate impact.
  • Afghanistan and Pakistan Regional Stabilization Strategy - The regional stabilization strategy, signed by the secretaries of defense and state, focuses on U.S. non-military efforts and states that the U.S. combat mission is not open-ended; however, the strategy states that the United States is committed to building a lasting partnership with Afghanistan and Pakistan. The strategy focuses on building the capacity of Afghan institutions to combat extremism, deliver high-impact economic assistance, create jobs, and reduce insurgent funding from the illicit narcotics trade. The strategy identifies key initiatives such as building the capacity of government in population centers in eastern and southern Afghanistan, improving agricultural development, and reintegrating Taliban who renounce al-Qaida.

It must be understood that these strategies support the concepts as established in the Bonn Agreement, December 2001; the Afghan Compact, January 2006; and the London Conference Communiqué in January 2010.

Within the construct of these overarching strategies the NSC, U.S. Central Command, and leadership within Afghanistan developed several plans. In addition, the Integrated Civilian-Military Campaign Plan for Support to Afghanistan (ICMCP) - signed by the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and the commanding general of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan and developed collaboratively by the U.S. agencies working in Afghanistan, the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan, ISAF, the government of Afghanistan, and other partner nations - provides guidance for U.S. personnel in Afghanistan and lays out a counterinsurgency (COIN) campaign to secure and support the Afghan people and government. The ICMCP calls for integrated civilian and military teams to address lines of effort by working on 11 specific efforts called transformative effects which can be aligned along three lines of effort: security, governance, and development.

Transformative Effects

  • Security success will be defined as:
    • Population Security - Afghans feel free from violence and coercion by insurgents, criminals, and terrorists and increasingly trust security forces to protect them, enabling resistance to the insurgency and support for the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA).
    • Action against Irreconcilables - Irreconcilable insurgent leaders and networks are defeated. They are rejected by the Afghan population and cannot threaten the security of Afghanistan or legitimacy of GIRoA. Al Qaida is unable to use Afghanistan to launch international terror attacks.
    • Countering the Nexus of Insurgency, Narcotics, Corruption and Criminality - Key nodes within the nexus of criminals, narcotics, illicit finance, and corrupt government officials which feed into the insurgency are identified, targeted, and disrupted significantly raising the costs and risks of this network.
  • Governance success will be defined as:
    • Elections and Continuity of Governance - Elections are credible, inclusive, and secure with minimal disruption enabling a smooth post-election process.
    • Expansion of Accountable and Transparent Governance - Increasingly responsive, capable, and accountable governance at all levels competently serves the people reinforcing a growing sense of connection and legitimacy.
    • Access to Justice - Afghan access to fair, efficient, and transparent justice in both state and traditional justice mechanisms is increased and Taliban influence on the informal system is reduced.
    • Claiming the Information Initiative - Government and community leadership communicate with the Afghan people on a common vision of hope and progress that convinces Afghans to resist insurgent influence and reject violent extremism.
    • Community- and Government-led Reintegration - Mid- to low-level insurgents are reintegrated into Afghan society, reducing the strength of the insurgency.
  • Development success will be defined as:
    • Creating Sustainable Jobs for Population Centers and Corridors - Licit small and medium enterprises create jobs and grow incomes in population centers and corridors while improvements in the business-enabling environment encourage large-scale investment in strategic sectors and extend opportunities to rural areas.
    • Agricultural Opportunity and Market Access - Viable agriculture-related employment and market development provide licit alternatives to narcotics and insurgent-related activities and connect people to their government.
    • Border Access for Commerce, not Insurgents - Afghanistan works with regional partners to increase licit cross-border commerce and activities and reduce infiltration of insurgents and illicit goods.

Operational Guidance

U.S. agencies in concert with international partners use a whole-of-government approach emphasizing unity of effort, to provide an agile, flexible, and responsive COIN strategy to promote stability. This is accomplished by integrating planning and operations in a framework, which synchronizes all USG resources by sector and geographical region to assist the GIRoA in establishing a viable society and government.

Working with the GIRoA national and local leaders, USG agencies ensure all development efforts align with the Afghanistan National Development Strategy. This applies to all programs focused at the public sector, the private sector, and civil society.

At the national level, U.S. monetary assistance is channeled through the GIRoA budget. USG personnel are required to involve ministry staffs in program design, procurement, monitoring, assessment, and evaluation.

At the field level, staffs are involved in planning and implementation, as appropriate, to ensure proposed activities contribute to, and are consistent with, U.S. COIN goals.

Operationalizing Interagency Guidance: Roles Played by the PRT

Operational interagency guidance is the implementing glue between overarching strategic goals, operational goals, and local execution. This guidance delineates the separate agency areas of responsibility (AORs). The guidance should tie national/sector development programs with the stability objectives and activities of the PRT.

Each agency active within the PRT provides appropriate implementing guidance to its respective agency elements deployed in the PRT. Depending on the actual makeup of the PRT, the relevant agencies are likely to include DOD, DOS, U.S. Agency for International Development, and others - including the Department of Agriculture and Department of Justice. Drawing on the integrated operational guidance developed at the embassy/JTF level, each agency provides a framework for its PRT personnel to identify key issues, priorities, timelines, and possible measures of effectiveness.

Although PRTs mostly focus on the tactical level, the interagency nature of their structure and activities cuts across any number of sectors (security, governance, and economy) and must be aligned with corresponding national and sector efforts. Any discontinuity or gaps in these local efforts are likely to manifest themselves as difficulties in achieving unity of effort within the PRT's AOR. Therefore, PRTs play an important role in informing and refining operational guidance from intermediate or higher headquarters and ensuring that the local objectives are effective, attainable, and aligned with operational and strategic goals.

It is vitally important that the PRT leadership ensures that the guidance coming in from multiple agencies is carefully coordinated and mutually reinforcing, and that the PRT leadership reports to higher headquarters when there are inconsistencies or when difficulties occur. The PRT is an important "ground truth" check on interagency coordination at higher levels; if differing guidance cannot be integrated at the PRT level, it may well be indicative of disjointed coordination or planning at the regional or national level. The PRT's activities are then developed through a common assessment of the situation and integrated implementation plan.


1. Portions of the information contained in this section are derived from the GAO Report GA)-10-655R, Strategic Framework-Afghanistan, June 15, 2010, and the ICMCP, August 10, 2009.


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