A Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) is a combination of international military and civilian personnel based in provincial areas of Afghanistan with the aim of extending the authority of the Afghan central government and helping to facilitate development and reconstruction by contributing to an improved security environment. PRTs also aim to support reform of the Afghan security sector - the demobilisation and disarmament of militias; building an accountable national army and national police force under democratic control; stamping out the drugs trade; and building a legal system.
In early 2003, the PRTs began deployment with US-led teams in Gardez, Bamian and Kunduz. By May 2005, a total of 20 PRTs had been established across Afghanistan.
The teams led by the US and the PRT in Bamian, which is led by New Zealand, operate under Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). The United Nations Security Council unanimously agreed on 13 October 2003 to expand the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mandate to allow it to operate outside Kabul, both in the form of PRTs and through limited temporary deployments. UNSCR 1563 of 17 September 2004 extends the ISAF mandate until October 2005.
The PRT concept is central to NATO efforts to extend ISAF beyond Kabul. The PRT in Kunduz, which is led by Germany, transferred to ISAF control on 30 December 2003. Following the NATO Istanbul Summit in June 2004, the two UK-led teams in Mazar-e Sharif and Meymana transferred to ISAF authority along with the associated Forward Support Base (FSB) on 1 July. The establishment of a new German team in Feyzabad and a Dutch-led PRT in Pol-e Khumri in September 2004 completed Stage 1 (North) of the expansion of ISAF.
Following the meeting of NATO Defence Ministers in February 2005, NATO announced Stage 2 (West) of ISAF expansion. This initially involved bringing the existing OEF PRTs in Farah and Herat under ISAF control. The US continues to lead in Farah, while Italy has taken over in Herat. Spain has established a new PRT in Qal'eh ye Now and Lithuania will complete Stage 2 by deploying a team to Chagcharan in autumn 2005. Italy and Spain jointly provide the FSB for the West, also based in Herat.
Paper on UK PRT Experience (20/01/05)
The Mazar-e Sharif PRT
The first UK-led PRT deployed to Mazar-e Sharif on 10 July 2003. The PRT's area of responsibility covers five provinces: Jawzjan, Balkh, Samagan, Sar-e Pol and Faryab, although direct control of the last was subsequently passed to the new UK-led PRT based at Meymana. The military component of the PRT is around 130 strong, including Danish, Swedish, Lithuanian and Romanian troops. There are also civilian representatives from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Department for International Development, the Afghan Transitional Administration, the US State Department, USAID and Norway. The make-up of the PRT may change depending on how its role develops.
The PRT has been able to play a significant conflict prevention and resolution role in the region where long-standing tensions between two powerful local commanders has periodically flared up into violence. In October 2003 the PRT made a major contribution in assisting the UN and Afghan Government to broker a peace agreement between the two factions. Further violence between the two militias in April 2004 was contained by the PRT after initial clashes. The PRT is assisting the UN in local disarmament exercises, including heavy weapons cantonment. The PRT has also channelled funding for a range of reconstruction projects including re-building police and judicial facilities, capacity-building of public institutions, a public library, and support for 700 very poor families.
The Meymana PRT
Elements from the Mazar-e Sharif PRT deployed permanently to Meymana in the province of Faryab in April 2004 following local unrest. This became the basis for the second UK-led PRT, which became fully operational on 30 June. The Meymana PRT is around 70 strong and includes Norwegian and Finnish forces and Finnish civilians.
The Mazar-e Sharif Forward Support Base
NATO planning for expansion of the ISAF mission is based on establishing a network of PRTs across Afghanistan. The first stage of this expansion, initiated at the NATO Istanbul Summit in June 2004, involved establishing a total of five PRTs in northern Afghanistan. The two UK-led PRTs and the existing German-led PRT in Kunduz formed the basis for this, and Stage 1 was completed with the creation of a new German PRT in Feyzabad and a team led by the Netherlands in Pol-I Khumri (Baghlan Province). The UK has established a Forward Support Base in Mazar-e Sharif staffed by personnel from the UK, Germany, Sweden and Norway, supported by elements of the Afghan National Army. This provides logistical support for all PRTs under ISAF authority in the north.
Other UK support to PRTs
The UK has deployed a development officer to the New Zealand-led PRT in Bamian. There may be scope for further involvement in other PRTs in the future.