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Condi Rice stands up first PRT in Iraq

By Polli Keller

MOSUL, Iraq (Army News Service, Nov. 14, 2005) -- Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice made a surprise appearance at the inauguration of the Ninewa Provincial Reconstruction Team.

Rice established Iraq’s first Provincial Reconstruction Team on Veterans Day, along with Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, Deputy Regional Coordinator Clarence Hudson, and Director of the National Coordination Team Greg Bates.

The ceremony took place on Forward Operating Base Courage, located in Mosul, Iraq, one day after the Ninewa PRT completed its initial training. This effort was led by Bates and certified by Maj. Gen. Robert Heine, Iraqi Reconstruction Management Office deputy director for operations.

3 of 15 PRTs to begin this month

The ceremony inaugurated the first of 15 PRTs that will deploy across Iraq by next summer; officials said. They said two more PRTs are being fielded in November to demonstrate a “proof of principle” and provide lessons for further implementation.

The remaining 12 PRTs and one Regional Reconstruction Team, or RRT, are scheduled for implementation by July 2006, officials said.

The PRTs are designed to lead the effort to build capability and sustainability within Iraq’s provincial governments, eventually allowing them to function independent of Coalition assistance, officials said. They said this transition to Iraqi leadership will be achieved by developing a transparent and sustained capability to govern, increasing security and assuring rule of law, promoting political and economic development, and by providing provincial administration necessary to meet the basic needs of the population.

Accomplishing these efforts is essential to a stable democracy evolving in Iraq, officials said, and increased stability spreading throughout the Middle East.

Rebuilding essential to stability

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is fundamental to the success of the PRT in building capable and sustainable institutions for Iraq’s local and provincial governments,” said Col. Richard Jenkins, USACE Gulf Region North commander.

Maj. Mike Farrell is the USACE engineer officer assigned to the Ninewa PRT. When asked what was most significant to him personally, he said, “As a U.S. Army officer, I swore to support and defend the U.S. Constitution. Now, I have the opportunity to help implement a constitution and mentor fellow engineers on providing for their citizens’ basic needs.

“The USACE has been fundamental in executing the Iraqi reconstruction program,” said Farrell. “Now, through PRT, we will be instrumental in helping the Iraqis learn to do it for themselves.”

Iraqis have first say in projects

The Iraqis are first in the planning and implementation of reconstruction efforts because it is their future and they have both the responsibility and the capability to make it work, Jenkins said

The reconstruction program has become the frontline in Iraq, Jenkins said. Although insurgents have caused delays and damage -- both in lives and increased costs for the reconstruction effort -- the U.S. and Iraqi governments remain steadfast in their joint efforts to help rebuild Iraq, he said.

The formation of the PRT will help develop effective solutions to some of the challenges facing Iraq -- an important step, officials said, as Iraqis take the lead in addressing their problems with the U.S. serving as a true partner, assisting in their efforts.

(Editor’s note: Polli Keller is the deputy public affairs officer, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Gulf Region North.)

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