Sunday, November 23, 2008

Provincial Reconstruction Teams: PRTs

Iraq’s eighteen provinces, from south to north, are: Basrah, Muthanna, Dhi Qar, Maysan, Najaf, Diwanyah, Wasit, Karbala, Babil, Baghdad, Anbar, Sallahdin, Diyala, Ninewa, Kirkuk, Erbil, Sulaymaniah, Dahuk (the latter three comprise the Kurdistan region). My “portfolio” (DOS term for area of responsibility) is the southern half of Iraq (including southern half of Baghdad), plus Kurdistan.

I’ve traveled to all of my provinces except one in the south, and am now far enough into my tour for return visits. My role is to support the members of the teams, to advocate for them at the Embassy, and to simply be available to anyone with something they want to talk about. The PRTs are [Department of] State-led teams comprised of foreign service officers (and contractors) who cover that province’s economy, business development, rule of law, governance, public diplomacy and agricultural issues. Teams include a USAID representative, several bilingual-bicultural advisors (BBAs) and interpreters; the deputy team leader is a military officer.

• First established in Iraq in 2005 and inaugurated by Secretary Rice in November that year, the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) initiative is a civilian-military inter-agency effort that is the primary U.S. Government interface between U.S., Coalition partners and provincial and local governments throughout all of Iraq’s 18 provinces.

• As of mid-December 2007 there were 28 PRTs located in all 18 of Iraq’s provinces -- 15 embedded with military units -- staffed by approximately 700 people. Since 2003, the U.S. Government has spent $32 billion on reconstruction and stabilization efforts in Iraq supported by PRTs.
• The PRTs are an important tool in helping Iraq achieve economic and political stabilization by bolstering moderates, promoting reconciliation, fostering economic development and building provincial capacity.
• They do this by assisting provincial and local governments to deliver essential needs like schools, roads and sewage and water services. A major focus is to build local and regional capacity in governance.
• All provinces in Iraq are now served by a total of twenty-eight PRTs, with the majority of Iraq’s population served by ten full-sized teams stretching from Mosul in the north to Basrah in the far south. Coalition participation includes the British-led PRT in Basrah, the Italian-led team in Dhi Qar and the Korean-led team in Erbil. The PRTs work closely with a U.S. or coalition military unit in their area to build capacity in their Provincial governments.
• Ten of the twenty- teams are the new “embedded” PRTs formulated as part of President Bush’s New Way Forward strategy. These civilian-led teams work hand-and-glove in BCTs (Brigade Combat Teams) or Regiments (U.S. Marines) to support the military surge in Anbar Province and the greater Baghdad area.
• Manning of the PRTs is diverse: Department of State, USAID, Coalition military personnel, U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Gulf Region Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and contract personnel. The Office of Provincial Affairs within the U.S. Embassy Baghdad provides policy guidance and support to the PRT program.
• PRT support comes from a variety of sources, including Coalition partners and donor nations with the majority coming from the U.S. Principal programs associated with PRTs include U.S. funded CSP (Community Stabilization Program); the PRDC (Provincial Reconstruction & Development Committee) program; the LGP (Local Governance Program); the Civil Society Program; and the INMA Agri-business Program.
December 17, 2007)

Brief observations of those I’ve visited:

Basrah – Iraq’s sole sea port, currently under the protection of the British, who are to be withdrawing from Iraq “soon” (three, six months?), in big oil territory; was the home of the “Reed People” until Saddam drained the swamps, and 40,000 people ("internally displaced persons" or "IDP") relocated northward.

Muthanna – in the south, on the border with Saudi Arabia, largest and poorest of the eighteen provinces, home of the famous Ur Ziggurat. Aaron Snipe is a public diplomacy officer for Team Muthanna. See his stellar blog:

Dhi Qar – Italian-led, under a strong Italian female; like the British, the Italians are said to be leaving “soon”.

Maysan – remote, hard to reach, to the east on the border with Iran.

Diwanyah (aka, Qadisyah) – south of Baghdad, used to be Polish-led, they left a few months ago, now the American are there; heavily agricultural, I met a team of consultants from Texas A&M’s Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture.

Karbal’a – southwest of Baghdad, very small, a curious mix of U.S. military, coalition guards, and the Iraqi Army; sat in on a press conference for local press about the impact of the rule of law in that province (for example, the PRT attorney is training local law enforcement, attorneys and judges on forensic evidence collection and preservation)

Erbil, Dahuk and Sulaymaniah ("Kurdistan") – in the north, border w/ Turkey and Iran, the three PRTs are co-located in a Christian neighborhood in Erbil, stable, near mountains; Dahuk (to the north bordering Turkey) and Sulaymaniah (southeast bordering Iran) are remote, hard to access. Erbil has an "international" airport with direct flights to Europe.

The PRT web page now has over 100 articles. Check them out at

Blogs are written by PRT Team Leaders especially for Real Clear World as part of a blogging initiative arranged with State Public Affairs. They are very excited about it and hope to continue in the future, perhaps with other sites, such as National Review Online.

Comments, questions, musings? Opinions, statements, declarations? Wishes, prayers, blessings?

All welcome ~ click on "Comments" below.

~ Carol

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