NATO Commander Touts Provincial Reconstruction Teams' Success
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 21, 2005 The provincial reconstruction teams in Afghanistan have been pivotal in the resurgence of society there, NATO's supreme allied commander for Europe said here Oct. 20.
Jones, who also serves as commander of U.S. European Command, spoke about the PRTs and the key role they are playing. NATO will take over the security mission in Afghanistan sometime in the future.
"If I could take off these stars and do anything in life, I think I'd want to be a PRT commander," Jones said. The United States created the first PRT in Gardez in 2002. The team, staffed by civilian and military personnel, would extend the reach of the Afghan central government and would act as the point of contact between the population and the government in providing security and rebuilding - or building - infrastructure.
The teams are small - usually 50 to 60 personnel. The 20 teams now in operation spread out all over the country. The United States leads 12 of the teams, with NATO and coalition countries leading the rest. "I can think of no greater contribution than what the PRTs are doing," Jones said.
The teams operate under the protective umbrella of coalition forces and increasingly under the protection of the Afghan National Army. The teams work with local officials to provide medical aid, vaccinate animals, dig wells or build roads.
"It's such an exciting proposition to be a PRT commander - a young major or lieutenant colonel - out in a remote area, where there are no telephones. Many times, there are no roads," Jones said.
He said the teams "are empowered to bring stability to that region and showing the people of the region that there is a better way and there is a more peaceful way to do things."
Jones said that the team in Paktika province - along the border with Pakistan - is spurring tremendous progress. Jones visited there recently with the NATO ambassadors.
"They just now opened the first paved road (in the province) ever," he said. "They are bringing electricity, they are bringing water, they are bringing schools, and at the same time they are administering to the security end to make sure these gains are protected."
He said as the teams have matured and the process has grown, the influence has spread. "Two years ago, the scope and range of the PRTs might be measured in single-digit miles," he said.
"Those same PRTs are expanding their influence to double-digit and, in some cases, triple-digit miles from the epicenter of their location," the general continued. "This is a very powerful thing, and it really is transforming the society. If you want to see enthusiasm, go talk to the people who work at the PRTs, because they know what they are doing is tremendously important."