Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs):
an analysis of their contribution to security in Afghanistan

By Charlotte Watkins, 30 September 2003. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the MSc degree in Development Practice, Oxford Brookes University




In this paper I will examine the work of the PRTs to date and will make an analysis of their contribution to the security situation in Afghanistan. Before looking at the PRTs in any detail, I will begin with a short summary of the historical context of relevance to their operating environment. Chapter 1 will describe the development of Peace Support Operations (PSOs) from the Cold War to the current day, picking out key themes and trends. Chapter 2 will consider the tensions between civil and military actors operating in the same environment and the structures that have evolved to promote cooperation and coordination between the two parties. Chapter 3 begins to set the scene in Afghanistan, by describing events leading up to the launch of the PRTs. Chapter 4 is a review and analysis of the PRT’s work in Afghanistan. It explains the thinking behind the concept, summarises responses from agencies working alongside on the ground, and provides an analysis of the contribution of the PRTs, as an exercise in civil-military engagement, to the security needs of the Afghan population. Finally, in Chapter 5, I will draw out some conclusions on the work of the PRTs, both positive and negative, by setting their work in a broader analytical framework.

Chapter 1

Peacekeeping as a collective term covers a diverse range of interventions: from traditional peacekeeping, to peace enforcement, peacemaking, peacebuilding, conflict prevention, humanitarian operations, etc. (Flint in Gordon and Toase, 2001, p.230; British Army, 1998, p.1-1).  Other collective terms have now been coined as ‘catch-all’ labels, including peace support operations, multi-dimensional operations and wider peacekeeping (Slim, 1996, p.6).  The array of terminology used to describe international interventions aimed at preventing, halting or resolving conflict is illustrative of the evolution in thinking and expansion of mandated tasks that have taken place since early peacekeeping initiatives were first seen in the late 1940s and early 1950s.   Fetherston (1994), among others, despite in-depth studies of peacekeeping, fails to pin down a firm definition.  She writes,

‘The real difficulty in providing a comprehensive functional definition of peacekeeping is that as peacekeeping takes on more and more functions the definitions get longer, more general and less useful’ (p.128).

This chapter surveys the evolution of peacekeeping.

Chapter 2

I began by describing the broadened scope and increased multi-functionality of peacekeeping operations - from the deployment of 'classical' deterrent forces during the Cold War period through to the current complexities of multidimensional peace support operations. This chapter will move on to explore the implications of contemporary forms of peacekeeping for other actors. First I summarise the arguments for and against military involvement in humanitarian and reconstruction assistance. I then move on to consider the structures and guidelines that have evolved in an attempt to regularise and institutionalise the often problematic relationship between military and civilian players.

Chapter 3

This chapter will begin with a description of the lead-up to the deployment of the PRTs. I start by outlining the role of the key contributing nations, notably the US and UK: first as war-makers in the 'fight against terrorism' and now as would-be peace providers. I then move on to describe the key security challenges in Afghanistan and the steps that have been taken so far to address them.

Chapter 4

To a greater extent perhaps than ever before, soldiers are straying into civilian humanitarian and reconstruction territory in Afghanistan. Hence military forces within the PRTs are coming into greater contact with assistance actors. By considering the complexities of managing the civil-military interface at different levels, I will attempt to demonstrate the problems that the PRTs face in strengthening security for the people of Afghanistan. First, I consider how the ongoing combat status of participating nations affects their ability to uphold the cornerstone principles of a peace support operation. I then examine the mandate of the PRTs, questioning their clarity of purpose and objectives. Referring back to chapter 2, and the management of civil-military relations, I move on to take a closer look at the PRTs at an operational level, considering how the PRTs have been received by civilian assistance agencies. By examining the PRTs in this way I ultimately consider their contribution to the security situation in Afghanistan.

Chapter 5

This chapter forms the conclusion of the paper, drawing out key points and setting them in a wider framework of analysis. I consider areas where the PRTs are effective and where they are unlikely to succeed; and finish with some general recommendations as to how decision-makers might continue to make use of the PRT model to improve security in future post-conflict environments.