Provincial Reconstruction Teams: How Do We Know They Work?
Over the past 6 years, provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs) have played a growing role in the U.S. counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan. PRTs are one of several organizations working on reconstruction there, along with civilian development agencies, including the U.S. Agency for International Development, numerous nongovernmental organizations, and the Afghan government’s National Solidarity Program. Perhaps unsurprisingly, something of a debate has emerged over whether PRTs are needed. The authors argue that civilian reconstruction agencies cannot do the same job as the PRTs. While these agencies remain essential for long-term economic and political development, the PRTs conduct reconstruction in ways that help create stability in the short term. Absent the PRTs, the “build” in clear-hold-build efforts deemed essential to effective counterinsurgency would fall flat. Based on over 2 months of field research in 2007 and 2 months in 2008 by a CNA team with 4 different PRTs—Khost, Kunar, Ghazni, and Nuristan—plus interviews with the leadership of 10 others, the authors recommend that the United States give the PRTs the lead role in reconstruction activities that accompany any surge of military forces into Afghanistan.