Provincial Reconstruction Teams and Security Assistance: Comments on an Evolving Concept

By Cobane, Craig T. | DISAM Journal, Summer 2005 | Go to article overview

Provincial Reconstruction Teams and Security Assistance: Comments on an Evolving Concept


Cobane, Craig T., DISAM Journal


Introduction

After a quick victory, toppling the Taliban and sending its al Qaeda allies into hiding, the U.S. led coalition in Afghanistan found itself in charge of a country devastated by over two decades of conflict. The country needed extensive reconstruction in every aspect of society and lacked a trained indigenous work force to assist in the stabilization process. The task of rebuilding Afghanistan was made even more difficult by an active insurgency, large numbers of armed militiamen and a quickly developing narco-trafficking industry. In order to assist in the stabilization of Afghanistan, the United Nations (U.N.) Security Council passed, on 20 December 2001, the U.N. Security Council resolution 1386 establishing an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to aid the Afghan Interim Authority in the maintenance of security in and around Kabul. By summer, 2002, 5,000 peacekeepers from nineteen countries were providing security in a 250 square kilometers area around Kabul. As a result of its success in enhancing security in Kabul, there were numerous calls for ISAF to expand its presence out into the countryside to provide security for humanitarian and reconstruction efforts.

Among those calling for ISAF to move beyond Kabul were then Afghan Chairman Hamid Karzai, the United Nations (U.N.) Secretary General Kofi Annan, the U.N. special representative to Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, and many in the international organizations and non-governmental organizations community. Their desire was to see an expansion of ISAF to key locations and major transport routes outside of Kabul to assist in the reconstruction process and to support disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of militia forces not under the control of central government. The key impediment for reconstruction, according to the non-government organization community and others, was the lack of security throughout the country. International security assistance force troops were needed to assist the Afghan National Army soldiers (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP), who were still being trained, in providing security. The non-government organization community was calling for a peacekeeping force on par with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) mission in Kosovo. A2003 RAND report noted there were twenty peacekeepers per thousand people in Kosovo. To reach a comparable number in Afghanistan would require 500,000 peacekeepers. That number was totally unfeasible and impractical.

Development of the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) concept successfully addressed Afghanistan's security environment, reconstruction needs and political requirements. This article documents and explores the development, implementation and overall effect of PRTs in Afghanistan.

Provincial Reconstruction Teams Origins and Mission

The summer of 2002, called for an increased ISAF presence collided with a reluctance on the part of the international community to provide more troops, a lack of international political will and a U.S. government desire to keep western troop levels in Afghanistan as low as possible. The traditional model of creating security equates more troops with increased security, but Afghan history demonstrates this model does not always hold true. Drawing upon lessons from the Soviet experience, U.S. policy makers were determined to not aggravate Afghans' sensitivity and low tolerance of occupying armies. Afghan history is replete with examples of how large occupying armies led to a coalescing of the country's fractious tribes against a common enemy. In this environment, the goal was to expand the ISAF effect, without expanding ISAF itself.

The early success of small six-person Civil Affairs teams, working with Special Forces personnel, scattered across Afghanistan to conduct limited 'heart and minds' reconstruction projects and work local Afghan security forces to provide security, developed further into a concept initially termed Joint Regional Teams (JRTs). …

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Provincial Reconstruction Teams and Security Assistance: Comments on an Evolving Concept
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