Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Afghanistan and Iraq

GAO-09-86R: Published: Oct 1, 2008. Publicly Released: Oct 1, 2008.

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Joseph A. Christoff
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U.S.-led Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) are designed to help improve stability in Afghanistan and Iraq by increasing the host nation's capacity to govern; enhancing economic viability; and strengthening local governments' ability to deliver public services, such as security and health care. PRTs are a means of coordinating interagency diplomatic, economic, reconstruction, and counterinsurgency efforts among various U.S. agencies in Afghanistan and Iraq. PRTs are intended to be interim structures; after a PRT has achieved its goal of improving stability, it may be dismantled to allow traditional development efforts to occur. In Afghanistan, the first PRTs were created in 2002 with the mission of facilitating security and reconstruction by helping the central government extend its authority to the provinces. Since then, PRTs have expanded their purpose to include strengthening local governance and community development. In Iraq, PRTs were initiated in 2005 with the mission to increase the capacity of provincial and local governments to govern effectively and, for newer embedded PRTs (ePRT), to support moderates and assist in the military's counterinsurgency efforts. To accomplish their missions, PRTs engage in and fund a variety of activities, such as developing the capacity of local governments through engagement with local stakeholders; promoting budget execution, business development, agriculture, public health initiatives, and governance; and supporting the delivery of basic social services. This report describes (1) the organization, staffing, and funding for PRTs in Afghanistan and (2) the organization, staffing, and funding for PRTs in Iraq. It excludes information marked "Sensitive but Unclassified" in our September 26, 2008, report on PRTs. Due to broad congressional interest in issues related to Iraq and Afghanistan, we completed this report under the Comptroller General's authority to conduct evaluations on his own initiative.

Afghanistan, as of May 2008, the United States was leading 12 of 26 PRTs and 13 other coalition countries were leading the remaining 14 PRTs. All PRTs in Afghanistan are under ISAF's operational command, but individual nations, including the United States, lead PRTs and determine their size and structure. U.S.-led PRTs in Afghanistan are led by DOD and are composed primarily of U.S. military personnel. As of April 2008, 10 of the 12 U.S.-led PRTs included 88 or more military personnel--the majority of whom provide security and other support for the PRTs--and 3 civilian personnel from State, USAID, and USDA. The total number of U.S. government personnel assigned to U.S. PRTs in Afghanistan increased slightly from 1,023 personnel in 2007 to 1,055 personnel in 2008--which includes 1,021 military personnel from DOD and 34 civilian personnel from State, USAID, and USDA. DOD is responsible for paying nearly all of the costs associated with operating PRTs, such as providing their security and life support. However, DOD officials reported that DOD does not track PRT operating costs separately from other operational costs for Afghanistan. State, USAID, and USDA do not reimburse DOD for its support to civilian PRT officials in Afghanistan. PRTs have one source of programmatic funding available for projects in Afghanistan. PRT commanders can approve the use of funds for projects under DOD's Commander's Emergency Response Program (CERP) up to $25,000 per project. PRTs in Afghanistan may also coordinate with other U.S.-funded programs, including other commanders' CERP projects and USAID programs, such as the Local Governance and Community Development project. In Iraq, as of August 2008, the United States was leading 28 of 31 PRTs and other coalition countries were leading 3 PRTs. As of August 2008, three types of U.S.-led PRTs were operating in Iraq: 11 PRTs at the provincial level of government; 13 ePRTs embedded with U.S. brigade combat teams and operating in local governments in Baghdad, Anbar, Babil, and Diyala provinces; and 4 Provincial Support Teams (PST), which are smaller PRTs that cannot be based in the intended province due to security concerns. According to State and DOD officials, the number of personnel assigned to PRTs and ePRTs in Iraq increased from an estimated 100 to 125 personnel in early 2007 to about 450 in July 2008. This increase was the result of the Administration's decision in January 2007 to create ePRTs and to increase the size of PRTs in support of The New Way Forward. DOD and civilian agencies have staffed the PRTs with a mix of U.S. government employees--permanent and temporary--and contractors. State reimburses DOD for some operating costs of ePRTs and most PRTs, based on a quarterly estimate for each PRT member. State's reimbursements do not cover the costs of PRT security and transportation provided by the U.S. military. According to DOD, as of April 2008, State had reimbursed $11 million to DOD for operating costs--$5.9 million for fiscal year 2007 and $5.1 million for the first quarter of fiscal year 2008. State had also obligated $125 million for PRT movement security from September 2005 through May 2008 for PRTs in Iraq that are not embedded with U.S. military units or do not have access to military movement assets.

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