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Complex Operations Newsletter

Newsletter 10-46
June 2010

CALL 10-46: Complex Operations Newsletter

Chapter 1. U.S. Government Interagency Lessons Learned Hub for Complex Operations


Enhancing the U.S. Government's Ability to Prepare for Complex Operations Center for Complex Operations

Center for Complex Operations

The Center for Complex Operations (CCO) was initially formed in the summer of 2008 in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) and moved in early 2009 to the National Defense University (NDU). Its four overlapping functions, as directed by Congress in NDAA09, are to provide for effective coordination in the preparation of Department of Defense (DOD) and other U.S. government (USG) personnel for complex operations; foster unity of effort among the departments and agencies of the USG, foreign governments and militaries, international organizations, and nongovernmental organizations; conduct research, collect, analyze, distribute lessons learned, and compile best practices in matters relating to complex operations; identify gaps in the training and education of military and civilian governmental personnel relating to complex operations, and facilitate efforts to fill such gaps.

The CCO is comprised of permanent representatives from OSD, the State Department's Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS), and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The CCO also draws from the expertise and experience of NDU, civilian academic institutions, the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP), and the military services and commands. Recent CCO activities include conducting conferences and seminars on whole-of-government approaches to complex operations, developing training programs for Ministry of Defense advisors in Iraq and Afghanistan, and assessing the lessons learned by returning members of provincial reconstruction teams.

The CCO offers electives at NDU and supports training and education conducted both at NDU and by other agencies and organizations in DOD and the USG. The CCO maintains a Web site ("") providing up-to-date information and interface to the complex operations community of practice. Publications include PRISM-the professional journal of complex operations, special reports and briefings, and an anthology of strategic lessons learned by senior military and civilian leaders who participated in complex operations over the past two decades, titled Commanding Heights.

The CCO is a developing network of civilian and military educators, trainers, and lessons learned practitioners dedicated to improving education and training for complex operations, which includes stability operations, counterinsurgency, and irregular warfare.

Principal roles of the CCO are to serve as a lessons learned hub and information clearinghouse, and to cultivate a civil-military community of practice for complex operations training and education.

The CCO is intended to:

  • Serve as the central and institutionalized proponent for coordinating, facilitating, and supporting the implementation of lessons learned across interagency partners.
  • Network existing institutions, not be another center.
  • Enhance existing training and education rather than provide training and education itself.

Activities and accomplishments of the CCO include:

  • Partnering with USIP to author Sharing the Space: A Study on Education and Training for Complex Operations, and to develop the CCO portal.
  • Launching the CCO community of practice portal ("") with:
    • Searchable catalogues of curricula, experts, and training and education institutions.
    • An annotated events calendar.
    • Community discussion forums.
    • Featured commentary blogs from leading complex operations experts.
  • Hosting workshops and events to enhance complex operations training and education and review complex operations doctrine.

The CCO will link USG education and training institutions, including related centers of excellence, lessons learned programs, and academia to foster unity of effort in stability operations, counterinsurgency, and irregular warfare-collectively called complex operations. The DOD, with support from the State Department and USAID, established the CCO as an innovative interagency partnership. Recognizing that unity of effort across disparate government agencies and across DOD components requires shared intellectual and decision-making frameworks, the CCO will connect education and training programs across the government to foster a "whole of government" understanding, assessment, and approach to complex operations.

The CCO was specifically established to:

  • Serve as an information clearinghouse and knowledge manager for complex operations training and education. The CCO acts as a central repository of information in areas like training and curricula, training and education provider institutions, complex operations events, and subject matter experts.
  • Develop a complex operations training and education community of practice to catalyze innovation and development of new knowledge, connect members for networking, share existing knowledge, and cultivate foundations of trust and habits of collaboration across the community.
  • Serve as a feedback and information conduit to OSD and broader USG policy leadership to support guidance and problem solving across the community of practice.
  • Enable more effective networking, coordination, and synchronization to support the preparation of DOD and other USG personnel for complex operations.
  • Support lessons learned processes and best practices compilation in the area of complex operations.
  • Identify education and training gaps of the DOD and other USG departments and agencies, and facilitate efforts to fill those gaps.

The CCO grew out of three separate but conceptually related initiatives. DOD Directive 3000.05, Military Support to Stability, Security, Transition, and Reconstruction called for the establishment of a center of excellence for stability operations. Likewise, the irregular warfare (IW) roadmap from the Quadrennial Defense Review asked DOD to develop a similar center for IW. Meanwhile, the State-DOD interagency counterinsurgency initiative sought to establish a center of excellence for interagency counterinsurgency. Rather than creating three new duplicative centers, interagency stakeholders decided that a consortium leveraging existing institutions would be more effective and efficient. The CCO is also supportive and complementary to the State Department's S/CRS-led National Security Presidential Directive-44 initiatives.

A core CCO support center staff, led by the CCO director, manages CCO activities and program elements. Based out of the offices of the Center for Technology and National Security Policy at NDU, the team leverages and networks within existing complex operations education and training, academic research, and lessons learned integration efforts across the USG. The support center team is augmented by detailed manpower support from other departments and agencies. Supporting departments and agencies include the State Department's S/CRS and Political-Military Bureau, USAID Office of Military Affairs (OMA) and Headquarters Department of the Army Stability Operations Division, that provide part-time support. The CCO support center has been operational since July 2007 and was officially activated in April 2008.

CCO Governance

CCO Executive Committee

The strategic policy and governance of the CCO are directed by the CCO executive committee. Membership is comprised of USAID; State Department's Political-Military Bureau and S/CRS; and the Joint Staff Directorate for Strategic Plans and Policy (J-5) Global Security Affairs. This committee is responsible for reviewing and approving the CCO's strategic direction and investment plans and for choosing the CCO's director. The executive committee is chaired by the director of the Center for Technology and National Security Policy. Members of the executive committee include:

  • Assistant Secretary Political-Military Bureau (State Department).
  • Coordinator, S/CRS (State Department).
  • Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance (USAID).
  • Deputy Director for Global Security Affairs (Joint Staff Directorate for Strategic Plans and Policy [J-5]).

CCO Steering Committee

The steering committee is made up of a group of peers from the DOD, State Department, and USAID. The role of the steering committee is to support the executive committee, develop the strategic plan, and shape the actions and events of the CCO. The steering committee also reaches out to leading complex operations entities, including the Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute, Foreign Service Institute, and NDU. The steering committee is chaired by the CCO deputy director, OSD-Policy, Stability Operations Capabilities. Members of the steering committee include:

  • Department of State Political-Military Bureau.
  • Department of State S/CRS.
  • USAID Office of Military Affairs.
  • Joint Staff Directorate for Strategic Plans and Policy (J-5) Global Security Affairs.

The CCO is a DOD-led collaboration with the Department of State and USAID. It supports separate but conceptually related DOD and State stability operations, counterinsurgency, and irregular warfare efforts.

For additional information or for assistance with complex operations training and education questions, please contact the CCO support center at "", or call 202 433-5217.

Provincial Reconstruction Teams of the United States in Afghanistan: The Problems of Structure, Counterinsurgency, and the Afghan Perspective

Matt Van Etten

Reprinted with permission, Center for Complex Operations, National Defense University

As the Taliban were ousted from power in Afghanistan in late 2001, the international community was presented with a huge dilemma: what is the best way to create the foundations for a stable and effective state here? Over the next two years, American military planners developed a plan for a set of temporary civil-military organizations designed to generally extend the reach of the new Afghan government into the most remote locations of the country. These new structures were called provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs). Today, there are 26 PRTs in all; 12 led by the U.S., mostly concentrated in the eastern part of the country, and the remaining 14 led by 13 other allied countries.1 Given the wide range of conflict/post-conflict conditions around the country, PRTs were given only the most general guidelines towards supporting the end goal of a stable Afghan nation.

From the beginning, American PRTs have reflected a decidedly military-centered framework of ideas regarding how the Afghan nation should be secured and stabilized, especially since Afghanistan's level of security started to decline in 2006. This rise in insecurity in Afghanistan coincided with the ascent of the doctrine of counterinsurgency (COIN) in the U.S. military, a set of principles that has revolutionized American military efforts in Iraq. Based on a groundbreaking field manual put out by U.S. Army Headquarters in late 2006, COIN doctrine is rooted in "using all instruments of national power"-military, paramilitary, political, economic, psychological, and civic actions-"to sustain an established or emerging government."2 While written for the theater of Iraq, many leaders in both the military and civilian worlds (including U.S. commander General Stanley McChrystal) have been eager to apply its tenets to Afghanistan after its perceived success as a guiding doctrine in Iraq.

PRTs have been central in this effort, given their mission to synthesize the very combination of resources that COIN dictates as being the key to stability in a conflict to post-conflict zone. But within all this, a critical question emerges regarding PRTs and the search for a winning formula: how compatible is COIN with the military-centric structure of American PRTs, and in turn how does this relationship match up with the perceived and actual effectiveness of American PRTs in Afghanistan?

The following analysis reveals a problematic gap between the ways in which American leaders view and carry out the work of PRTs, and the ways that Afghans perceive the effectiveness of American (or otherwise U.S.-supported) PRT activities.3 This gap exists largely because of the imbalanced structure of American PRTs, and specifically because the Department of Defense's (DOD) dominance in the PRT framework conflicts with the renewed importance that American leaders have placed on promulgating the principles of COIN doctrine through PRTs in Afghanistan. Many Afghans perceive PRTs to be inadequate in fostering development, and many do not seem to positively equate PRT activities to the legitimacy and/or effectiveness of the Afghan government. To more effectively carry out their mandate of providing security, fostering development, and generally assisting the Afghan government in expanding its reach and perceived legitimacy around the country, American leaders must rebalance the civilian and military capabilities of their PRTs.

In the 12 PRTs led by the U.S., DOD personnel greatly outnumber those from civilian agencies. Of the 1,055 total U.S. government personnel assigned to American PRTs in Afghanistan in 2008, fully 1,021 of these represented the U.S. military, while only 34 represented civilian agencies. Of the 50 to 100 total personnel in each American PRT, only three or four individuals tend to be U.S. government civilians or contractors, the rest consisting of a wide variety of military civil affairs personnel.4 These military personnel have direct access to much larger funding streams than their civilian counterparts giving the military personnel disproportionate influence in planning and conducting field-level operations. Though each PRT's military commander does not command non-DOD civilians, he is still known as "first among equals"-reflecting the primacy given to the security-centered approach that is characteristic of American PRTs.5

Why have American leaders chosen to put the military at the center of the PRT apparatus in Afghanistan? In one sense, the centrality of military personnel and resources reflects the overall dominance of the military in the U.S. government's ongoing mission in Afghanistan as kinetic activity persists across wide swaths of the nation's territory. Also, the U.S. military simply has a clear advantage in operating effectively throughout Afghanistan-especially in remote and volatile areas-given the Armed Forces' vast combined resources, clear organizational structure, and incomparable funding streams.

The most important funding stream going to American PRTs is the Commander's Emergency Response Program (CERP) which allows a PRT commander to request massive amounts of money in a very short amount of time. Therefore, CERP funds allow American PRT personnel to implement development projects at a much faster rate than other nations' PRTs. However, interagency coordination-and overall American PRT efforts-ultimately pays a price. While official guidance calls for these commanders to coordinate CERP projects with their civilian counterparts, at the end of the day it is the commander who has primary access to this generous funding stream, as well as the power of initiative. In addition, once a CERP-funded project has been chosen, the commander presides over a great number of civil affairs personnel to assist in the implementation of the project.

Given the U.S.' relatively military-centered approach to PRTs, American leaders seem to have concluded that while the DOD may not be the best agency to forward development, it represents the best option available in a situation where substantial force protection is essential. Instead of taking the risk of allowing civilians to operate in highly dangerous areas it is better to train and equip military professionals to do the essential tasks of stability operations, or so the reasoning goes.

Given the imbalanced nature of American PRTs, as well as the considerably different security situations across the 12 areas of American PRT operations, the channeling of COIN principles through PRTs has produced widely varied results. In both stable and unsecure provinces where American PRTs operate, examples can be found of COIN being employed to great effect when American PRT personnel forge creative ways to directly bolster the operations of, and local perceptions towards, the Afghan government. In Khost, a particularly violent province, the PRT commander reached an agreement with local officials to have district governors, as well as Afghan National Police and Afghan National Army officers, position themselves alongside his troops during day-to-day operations. In addition, he agreed to place his own civil affairs officers in the local provincial government's own district-center offices. In other examples, American PRTs have maximized their flexibility and versatility to not only protect, coordinate, and train, but also to reach out to ordinary Afghans in efforts to foster dialogue and a greater general understanding of shared goals. In Paktika province, the PRT's leaders sponsored a provincial reconstruction workshop that brought together a hundred tribal elders, local government officials, and representatives from Kabul to discuss the new national development plan.

On the other hand, the main problems concerning the grafting of COIN doctrine onto the military-centric structure of American PRTs include the heavy hand of the military in the direction and implementation of development projects, general disorganization among all PRT members, and the divergent priorities of different actors within each PRT. As Robert Perito explains in his seminal 2005 U.S. Institute for Peace report on PRTs, American PRT commanders often put a heavy premium on getting a project in place as soon as possible-even at the expense of local Afghan involvement. PRTs "often reverted to what was familiar" in terms of maximizing efficiency and fast results in an environment of "rapid turnover among [military] civil affairs personnel," as well as "pressure from senior military authorities to demonstrate progress" in a short amount of time.6 Perito goes on to say that this institutional reflex stems in large part from a short-sighted habit of PRT members measuring their effectiveness by "the amount of money spent and the number of buildings constructed" during their short rotations on a PRT.

In addition, the "largely consensus-based decision-making process" within PRTs often leads to friction regarding the implementation of development programs, as constituent PRT representatives from the State Department, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Department of Justice, and Department of Agriculture bring divergent mandates from their home agencies to the field.7 American PRTs do not have central authority figures to set courses of action and focus the collective mandates and resources of the disparate agencies at work in each PRT. As a result, the representatives of these constitutive agencies are never truly compelled to work together.

Given the lack of a unified vision in the PRT system, personality becomes the critical variable in forwarding effective programs and projects, implementing strategies, and coordinating the array of available resources at PRTs. "Where PRT commanders worked closely with civilian and military members, the PRT developed a common vision and sense of aligned purpose," says a 2006 USAID report. "Where this was not the case, project implementation tended to be ad hoc and driven by response to higher headquarters versus local dynamics."8 Some of these issues of misunderstanding have been alleviated by the implementation of a joint, pre-departure training program of future military and civilian PRT personnel at Fort Bragg, NC. However, without a set structure, personality will always be the pivotal factor that determines how effective a PRT will be in carrying out innovative strategies for development and the enhanced legitimacy of the Afghan government.

By considering the perspective of Afghan citizens towards PRTs in their communities, we can more clearly determine the effectiveness of these units as COIN instruments. The reflections of Dr. Abdullah Khalil Ahmedi offer an important angle on how the work of American PRTs is perceived not only by an Afghan individual, but one whose job it is to implement development projects in an area where PRT leaders have attempted to do the same type of work. Dr. Ahmedi is an Afghan engineer working in Panjshir province, and currently serves as provincial manager of United Nations-Habitat (UN-Habitat), an organization managed and staffed by Afghans. When the U.S. established a PRT in Panjshir in late 2005, he says, it immediately altered the dynamic of the pre-existing relationship between UN-Habitat and the people of the province. The primary reason for this shift was, and continues to be, the massive influence that PRTs can bring to bear through the CERP and other funding streams. Much of the work of UN-Habitat clearly overlaps with the mandate of PRTs in the development sphere, and Dr. Ahmedi says that only recently have PRT representatives really seemed to make an effort to coordinate their plans with members of his organization.

From his office deep in the Panjshir Valley, Dr. Ahmedi describes with frustration how PRT representatives have often heedlessly carried out conflicting projects in his and the PRT's shared area of operations. "We have [had] a lot of struggle with the PRT," he says. "They will directly contact the village and start their work, and there will be some duplication between our work and PRT work. So many times I would meet with them and request of them, 'Please don't get involved in our projects without our prior information or prior agreement.'"9 Besides the duplication of projects, Ahmedi notes that such miscommunication has contributed to already high levels of corruption. Many Panjshiris have taken advantage of the communication gap between the PRT and UN-Habitat, soliciting both organizations for funding for the same project or program and then pocketing the difference. "These people are tricky people," he says of the Panjshiris. "They want to pull the money from everywhere. They never mind about if this is from [UN-Habitat] or PRT. They don't think about how it complicates the process."10

For all the troubles in the past few years, Dr. Ahmedi insists that PRT representatives have recently been much better about communicating and offering avenues for project collaboration with his own organization. These days, he is often able to get advanced notice from PRT representatives (or other colleagues) about a PRT project in the works; and when he does, he will sometimes send another engineer from his office to the PRT headquarters to offer complimentary UN-Habitat resources. "Finally," he says, "the most recent [PRT] team feels, 'Oh, there is something that we should share with the UN-Habitat.' Right now, they are in the proper way."11

Bamyan province, one of the most under-developed and peaceful provinces in Afghanistan, has been hosting a PRT run by the New Zealand Defense Force since 2003.12 Most Bamyanians are members of the Hazara minority ethnic group, and have generally been neglected (and even systematically persecuted) by Afghan central governments for over two centuries. At a shura (council) meeting of around fifteen tribal elders, the men expressed exasperation that the international community continues to throw millions of development dollars at more hostile provinces, while conditions here in Bamyan are comparatively ripe for long-term, sustainable development. The people of Bamyan, they say, seem to be getting punished for being peaceful. This is a common complaint of Afghans in more secure provinces. Sadly, however, their plight becomes more understandable when the situation in Afghanistan is viewed through the lens of COIN, wherein those areas with the greatest security problems receive the most attention and resources.

These shura elders are generally grateful of the work that New Zealand's PRT has done in Bamyan, especially in the realm of preventative security. But they also voice a more pressing concern that their PRT is wasteful and woefully underachieving in the realm of development. Many projects, one elder says, are only "for show. [They move] a few tracts of soil, then make a picture that they have invested a lot of money."13 Another elder says that many of the projects the PRT is doing "consume a lot of money, with a small output."14 This sentiment is echoed in other Afghan communities where the PRT has contracted out work to private companies.

A more incisive complaint comes from a couple of elders who call attention to New Zealand's comparatively humble place on the totem pole of contributing nations in Afghanistan. "We ask the PRT for more help, but PRT answers that they are not a rich country, they are a small country . . . New Zealand says they are a poor country, and Bamyan is a poor province, so zero plus zero equals zero."15 These elders make clear their belief that if the U.S. or Germany were the lead nation for their PRT, they would surely make bigger strides in development. "Is it possible that the world community should change this PRT team," one says, "and put a rich country PRT team here, that they should do something for our reconstruction."16

Judging by such protestations, these elders seem unaware that CERP funding is actually behind a great deal of development in Bamyan. Brent Iggo and Eileen Stiffey, two military staff officers at New Zealand's PRT headquarters, say that American-provided CERP funds represent "the number-one funding avenue for big ticket stuff" here, but this money is more often channeled directly into the Afghan government, in pursuit of the long-term aim of strengthening capacity and increasing responsibility in areas like financial-management.17 Regardless of the difference between the ways in which the Americans and New Zealanders choose to direct their funds, the fact remains that the U.S. military exerts a huge influence on the activities and priorities of both nations' PRTs through the preponderance of CERP.

Seyd Talib Mortazavi, an administrative officer working for the Aga Khan Development Foundation in Bamyan, agrees the Bamyan PRT does not do enough for reconstruction, but what they do is truly appreciated (he mentions a recently built high school as one example). He also recalls being in the main bazaar in town one day and seeing members of a PRT security patrol being welcomed by, and mixing easily with, the local population.18 PRT leaders must view this sort of natural interaction between their representatives and the Afghan people as an achievement, especially when the tenets of COIN hold that this kind of dynamic is a critical extension of the principle of civilian protection in the larger endeavor of winning hearts and minds. Noor Akbari, another development specialist in the provincial center, highlights the PRT's general training center, which advises local Afghans on everything from "team-building, to purposeful writing, to expressing opinions."19

In two other provinces with American PRTs, Parwan and Kapisa, additional responses further illuminate the broad range of local perceptions toward PRT activities, and also uncover an unexpected complication regarding PRT activities. At a kabob shop in Parwan, about 50 miles north of Kabul, a shopkeeper named Ali Rezah sings the praises of the PRT: they help people in the market area, they build what the elders in the local shura request, and they pave roads extensively around his area.20 However, there is a potential problem in his five-star review-he has given all of the credit to the members of the PRT, and none to his own national government. American PRT projects are very successful, he says, and much better than anything done by the government-which is "corrupt one-hundred percent."21 Similarly, he feels the PRT is fighting well against the Taliban on the fringes of his province, while government officials are simply "not fighting."

Though Ali Rezah's enthusiasm for the PRT is somewhat encouraging, it is at the same time greatly discouraging-and sadly representative-that he sees a wide legitimacy gap between the effective PRT and the hapless national government, when one of any PRT's primary goals is to bolster the Afghan government's perceived legitimacy. In light of this reaction, as well as the generally positive comments of Noor and Mortazavi, it appears critical for Afghan security and development personnel to be portrayed as being out in front as they act alongside more experienced PRT representatives. As much as it is the responsibility of PRT members to train, equip, and prepare Afghan National Army and Police troops for their sovereign duties, PRT members should also make concerted-and even sometimes stage-managed-efforts to portray the Afghans as taking charge of the fate of their own nation.

In American PRTs, and in the Bamyan PRT run by New Zealand, CERP funding plays a disproportionately large role in the implementation of development projects and programs in Afghanistan. While the infusion of massive amounts of money in this way may lead to a profusion of quick-impact projects in areas of American PRT operations, the lack of real sustainability inherent in the current model may be causing an end result of only temporary, surface-level changes. In addition to this risk, the fact that DOD receives the largest portion of American financial and technical resources at each PRT creates an imbalance that reduces the voice of the other agencies in interagency planning and operations. In a COIN framework where the encouragement of stability relies on the coordination of security and development, a model in which the military dominates decision-making and project implementation is fundamentally counterproductive. One solution for increasing the effectiveness of American PRTs-and more importantly, the legitimacy of the Afghan government-is to support more projects and programs that focus on training Afghans themselves for development work. On this issue, New Zealand's PRT in Bamyan offers lessons that are readily applicable to American PRTs, given that such a large part of programmatic funding for Bamyan's PRT comes from CERP funds. New Zealand's PRT has been a fascinating hybrid of the American and European models, given its reliance on CERP but also its priority of working through the Afghan system to provide guidance in development. As one explanation for such an attitude, Major Bryce Gurney, a New Zealand PRT planning officer, says that many of the Afghans he works with are adequately skilled as engineers but have no training in management.22 Therefore, they are at a disadvantage in bidding for local development contracts but they are not as far behind as one might think. A few focused courses on business training can provide a group of Bamyanians with development skills they can apply to their work here for the rest of their lives.

Relatedly, American PRT overseers must realize that when it comes to long-term development, some jobs are better left to others. That is why PRT personnel must better engage and cooperate with organizations like UN-Habitat in the Panjshir Valley-because Dr. Ahmedi, and individuals in his same position, will be there much longer than the PRT and its members will be. While the PRT has distinct advantages in implementing large-scale projects for the people of Panjshir, these efforts are only short-term in nature, and do not adequately apply to programs like elections monitoring and security-sector reform (which require sustained guidance over many years and election cycles). With the relatively (and presumably) limited time that PRTs will be a part of life for the Afghan people, their energy and resources would be spent complimenting the efforts of groups that have been there, and will be there, for a much longer time.

Finally, in the realm of popular perceptions, both American PRT representatives and Afghans in their surrounding areas would be better served if the U.S. government carried out better public relations efforts through the PRTs. Perceptions, of course, are never as important as effective actions. But more substantial attempts at managing expectations on the part of PRT representatives, as well as other contributing country leaders, would allow PRT members to mitigate at least some of the visible frustration of Afghans who are not seeing rapid development unfold before their eyes. The critical shura leaders of Bamyan, for example, could be provided with more specific information, such as timelines for anticipated development projects, as well as explanations as to which types of projects are viable and which are not. Furthermore, efforts to show how the Afghan government is taking the lead on some PRT-supported projects could dramatically improve the perceived legitimacy of the Afghan government as well, and perhaps go some way towards preventing cases like Ali Rezah of Parwan who felt that the PRT was effective, but that his government was worthless.

It is important to remember that the failings and successes of PRTs, such as they are, are not the result of a breakdown in some predetermined framework. PRTs were designed to be open to a sort of constant evolution and responsive to the widely varied conditions on the ground across Afghanistan. As the Obama administration considers all of the tools at its disposal in renewing the American effort in Afghanistan, it must instill a stronger balance within the PRT framework to ensure that the stability they aim to provide proves sustainable as the Afghan government strives to assume greater responsibilities.


1. Government Accountability Office (GAO), Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Afghanistan and Iraq, GAO-08-905RSU (Washington, D.C., 26 September 2008), p. 1.

2. David H. Petraeus and James F. Amos, Counterinsurgency: Field Manual 3:24, (Washington D.C., Department of the Army Headquarters, 15 December 2006), p. xi.

3. In the summer of 2008 I traveled through Afghanistan for 10 weeks, conducting one-on-one interviews and group discussions with both Afghans and members of the international community there. These discussions were held in Kabul as well as in the provinces of Panjshir, Bamyan, Parwan and Kapisa.

4. GAO-08-905RSU, p. 2.

5. Ibid., p. 7.

6. Robert Perito, "The U.S. Experience with Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Afghanistan." United States Institute for Peace, October 2005, p. 8.

7. Nima Abbaszadeh; Mark Crow; Marianne El-Khoury; Jonathan Gandomi; David Kuwayama; Christopher MacPherson; Meghan Nutting; Nealin Parker; Robert Perito; Taya Weiss. "Provincial Reconstruction Teams: Lessons and Recommendations," The Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University, January 2008, p. 50.

8. United States Agency for International Development. "Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Afghanistan: An Interagency Assessment," June 2006, p. 10.

9. Discussion with Dr. Ahmedi, July 2008.

10. Ibid.

11. Ibid.

12. Bamyan province lies in the Regional-Command East security zone, where the U.S. is the lead nation in command. Therefore, the inhabitants of Bamyan, as well as all personnel in the New Zealand Defense Force in Afghanistan, are actually under the broader jurisdiction of the American forces in Afghanistan.

13. Group discussion with member of Bamyan shura, August 2008.

14. Ibid.

15. Ibid.

16. Ibid.

17. Discussion with Brent Iggo and Eileen Stiffey, New Zealand Defense Force officers, August 2008.

18. Discussion with Seyd Talib Mortazavi, administrative officer of the Program for Professional Development, Aga Khan Foundation, August 2008.

19. Discussion with Noor Akbari, development specialist, Aga Khan Foundation, August 2008.

20. Discussion with Ali Rezah, shopkeeper, August 2008.

21. Ibid.

22. Discussion with Bryce Gurney, New Zealand PRT planning officer, August 2008.

Civil-Military Cooperation in Microenterprise Development

Borany Penh, Mayada El-Zighbi, and Peter Stevens

Reprinted with permission from the author

This article was originally published by
U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), March 2008.

Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Afghanistan and Iraq provide new opportunities for civil-military cooperation as well as new sources of contention.

Despite the concerns that PRTs have raised in Afghanistan, according to USAID's Borany Penh, who worked with PRTs in 2007 to develop a common planning framework, "With their unique potential to exploit complementarities and their access to knowledge of the local context, the PRTs likely will remain the primary vehicle for civil-military cooperation in Afghanistan well into the future."

During periods of conflict civilian actors often rely on the military for protection while retaining their neutrality; in natural disaster settings civilian and military actors also have a long tradition of working side by side, albeit sometimes uneasily. In recent years, however, the concept of Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in Afghanistan and Iraq has provided new opportunities for civil-military cooperation as well as new sources of contention.

PRTs are a new model of civil-military cooperation to help the national government, in partnership with local communities, develop the institutions, processes, and practices to create a stable environment for long-term political, economic, and social development.1 In Afghanistan, PRTs are working to improve security, extend the reach of the national government, and facilitate reconstruction in priority provinces until more traditional forms of development assistance can resume.2 They range in size from 60 to 375 people, with civilians generally comprising a small minority.

The first Afghanistan PRT was established in the province of Gardez in December 2002. Currently 25 PRTs operate in Afghanistan: 13 are led by NATO/International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in the relatively more stable provinces, and 12 are led by the U.S in less stable areas.3 Most U.S.-led PRTs are headed by a commanding military officer with the civilian side represented by a U.S. Department of State officer and a USAID field program officer. Some PRTs are also staffed by a USAID alternative development advisor and an agricultural officer from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Civil-Military Cooperation on Microenterprise Development in Afghanistan

Reconstruction projects implemented by the PRTs range widely: basic infrastructure and repair, cash-for-work, training in governance and other sectors, and enterprise development. Funding for these activities also varies, depending on who is leading the PRT. For U.S.-led PRTs, financing comes from either the Commander's Emergency Response Fund (CERP) or civilian assistance funds. CERP and civilian funds cannot be mixed, but they can be used for complementary activities and personnel from both sides can advise on their use.

USAID assistance to the PRTs comes from either its Local Governance and Community Development (LGCD) program, which is designed specifically to support the PRTs, or its other bilateral assistance programs. PRT support for microenterprise development in Afghanistan comes largely through collaboration with USAID bilateral programs such as: the Agriculture, Rural Investment and Enterprise Strengthening Program (ARIES); the Accelerating Sustainable Agriculture Program (ASAP); the Afghanistan SME Development Activity (ASMED); and the Afghanistan Credit Support Program (ACSP).4 USAID technical experts work with PRT personnel to identify microenterprise needs in the PRT province, design the intervention, and manage implementation of the activities.5

Although the civil-military collaboration process can be arduous, several collaborations look promising.

The Gardez PRT leveraged CERP and civilian funding to turn small, disparate agricultural cooperatives in Logar province into an organized and equipped business association with better market linkages and greater negotiation power. They began by providing $175,000 in CERP funding to construct five solar-powered underground cold storage units, which allows the produce to be sold during winter at prices three or four times higher than at harvest time. The PRT took the process a step further by using the cold storage units as an incentive for the cooperatives to form an association, the Consolidated Agricultural Storage Association of Logar (CASAL). With $10,000 in funding and technical assistance from the ASMED program, CASAL teaches members about the importance of quality assurance/control and functions as a market intermediary with more favorable prices than typical middlemen. Using the assets provided by the PRT as collateral, CASAL can also secure larger loans to invest in the association and its members. CASAL is now pursuing a $25,000 collateralized loan with ARIES.

The Uruzgan PRT, led by the Netherlands, is working closely with USAID and the Dutch Ministry of Development Cooperation to establish an investment and finance cooperative (IFC) in the province. These Sharia-compliant, member-based institutions offer communities a new range of financial services outside of the illicit poppy industry and keep members' capital in the province for local investment. The IFC will follow the model of other successful IFCs under the ARIES program. It will be subsidized for about two years after which it is expected to become self-sustaining through fees and its ability to attract shareholders. The IFC eventually will be run by Afghans, but initially international technical experts will work as trainers and mentors.

Despite Positive Developments, PRTs Face Obstacles

Measuring Impact

Despite the PRT mandate to facilitate provincial stability and reconstruction, there is considerable debate about the impact PRTs are having on the ground. The Afghanistan PRTs continue to operate without a comprehensive monitoring and evaluation system. Although both the civilian and military components are accustomed to such systems, the disparate composition of the PRTs poses an ongoing challenge.6

Lack of Technical Capacity

Technical expertise is provided by civilian advisors who generally constitute the minority of PRT personnel. Moreover, not all civilian personnel have the technical capacity to manage or implement microenterprise activities in the special context of Afghanistan. USAID development advisors embedded in PRTs and collaboration with bilateral USAID programs can partially address these capacity gaps, but nonetheless the need for technical expertise far exceeds the available manpower.

Sharing Space with NGOs

Many international NGOs were founded to provide humanitarian relief to populations affected by war and embrace common principles of compassion, neutrality and impartiality as well as an implicit source of security. The dual military/civilian structure of PRTs blurs the traditional distinction between these two actors, which affects perceptions about NGO neutrality and assistance. One report contends that "[w]hen international forces are involved in a spectrum of roles that ranges from capturing insurgents and bombing schools and clinics, confusing messages are sent to the civilian population about the differences between foreign military and civilian roles."7

The United Nations has brokered dialogue and agreement between humanitarian and military actors in Afghanistan on core principles for delivering humanitarian assistance and on how to engage in the same space. This type of coordination mechanism has worked in the past (such as the NGO Coordination Committee in northern Iraq in 1991), but in several cases failed to avert tensions (such as in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, East Timor, and Somalia).Yet, most of this coordination has focused on humanitarian assistance, while many NGOs are now working across the relief-development continuum, and the military is engaging more proactively in microenterprise development in Afghanistan. Some USAID microfinance partners have temporarily set up operations "inside the wire" at a PRT forward operating base to enhance coordination and speed the launch of activities. However, this arrangement is unlikely to become mainstream practice with the many NGOs concerned about perceptions of their independence and neutrality.

Despite the concerns that PRTs have raised in Afghanistan, according to USAID's Borany Penh, who worked with PRTs in 2007 to develop a common planning framework, "With their unique potential to exploit complementarities and their access to knowledge of the local context, the PRTs likely will remain the primary vehicle for civil-military cooperation in Afghanistan well into the future."


The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Agency for International Development or the U.S. Government.


1. PRTs emerged from a struggle within the U.S. government to integrate a "whole of government" approach to post-conflict reconstruction at the local level.

2. ISAF PRT Handbook.

3. "".

4. See "".

5. Unlike CERP-funded activities which the military implement directly, most of USAID's assistance programs are implemented by international and local partners ranging from private contractors to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

6. There are, however, current efforts led by the State Department's Office of the Coordinator for Stability and Reconstruction (S/CRS) to systematize planning, including monitoring for results or effects.

7. "", page 5.

This article was originally published by USAID, March 2008.

Muscatatuck Center for Complex Operations

COL Barry Richmond

Reprinted with Permission, Center for Complex Operations, National Defense University

The Beginning

The Indiana Farm Colony for Feeble Minded Young Men was created in 1919 in rural south central Indiana to provide custodial care for male youth with mental disabilities. Over the next eight decades that small, rural farm complex grew into the Muscatatuck State Developmental Center caring for both male and female patients of all ages with physical and mental disabilities. It became a small city of nearly 5,000 tucked away in the hills of southern Indiana where, at its peak, 2,500 patients were cared for by nearly as many health care providers.

In 1941, less than 50 miles away, the U.S. War Department was looking for a site to build a training center in anticipation of the U.S.' possible involvement in the war. Central Indiana was appealing because of the availability of rural land, vast underground water supply, and access to the nearly 250 daily trains that moved through Indianapolis and surrounding towns. From January 1942, when construction began, until June that year, when the first post order rolled out, over 15,000 civilians worked around the clock to build Camp Atterbury. When they were finished, a $35 million dollar, division-sized training base of 40,000 acres and 1,780 buildings replaced nearly 750 farmsteads and two towns. The next four years saw over 250,000 soldiers trained for duty overseas and over 500,000 returning from World War II.

The Momentum Builds

Camp Atterbury evolved through a number of changes since World War II, closing and opening a number of times until 33,000 of its 40,000 acres was licensed to the Military Department of Indiana as a Reserve Forces training area in 1969. In coordination with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer, who administered the land title, the Indiana National Guard, through the National Guard Bureau, began a multi-million dollar modernization that continues today. Camp Atterbury had been one of the Army's state-operated mobilization stations for years and regularly practiced for mobilization, though few believed it would ever occur. In 2002, a trickle of mobilization support to other installations began, followed by assignment as one of FORSCOM's and First Army's mobilization platforms in January 2003. By the end of calendar year 2009, over 60,000 military personnel, mostly Army Guard and Reserve but some Air Force and Navy, will have mobilized for duty in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, and other overseas assignments. Camp Atterbury transformed from a National Guard Heavy Maneuver Training Center to an enduring Mobilization Training Center and Army power generation platform as one of the Army's principle force generation installations. Supported by First Army and the Army Installation Management Command, as well as the National Guard Bureau, Camp Atterbury's ability to mobilize and train military personnel has reached a new zenith.

Shortly following the September 11, 2001 tragedy, the Indiana National Guard strategic planners began to change the focus for meeting future training needs. They identified a need for training emergency responders and National Guard Soldiers in a catastrophic environment and began looking across Indiana for training options to enhance Camp Atterbury's capabilities. The group became aware of the Indiana state government's intent to divest itself of the Muscatatuck State Developmental Center, tear down the structures, and return the site's original rural character. Though a memorandum of agreement to that effect was in place, the Indiana National Guard leadership, after visiting the Muscatatuck Hospital Complex, and realizing the remarkable urban training possibilities, convinced the Governor to stay the destruction, and give the Indiana National Guard the opportunity to develop Muscatatuck as a domestic urban training site. Muscatatuck Urban Training Center soon became a linchpin to realistic urban training and keystone of the strategic vision.

In July 2005, in a ceremony presided over by Lieutenant Governor Becky Skillman and Adjutant General R. Martin Umbarger, the Muscatatuck facility was transferred to the Indiana National Guard to operate as an urban training center. The massive 1000-acre complex consisted of 68 structures constructed from 1920 to 1985 and offering nearly 900,000 square feet of floor space in unusual and complex layouts. Nine miles of circular road patterns and over a mile of underground tunnels, connecting nearly 80 percent of the buildings, added to the complexity. Little of this would be purpose built today because of the enormous expense of building a fully-functioning city infrastructure devoted solely to training.

The Vision Realized

As a mechanism for converting vision into reality, the Muscatatuck Center for Complex Operations (MCCO) was developed as a "flat" business oriented organization overseeing the operations and development of Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center, Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, Indiana Professional Education Center, and the aerial gunnery ranges at Camp Atterbury and Jefferson Proving Grounds. The MCCO is focused on developing a remarkable complex environment that seeks to create an accurate context in which the U.S. and whole of nation team can share a collective, team of equals experience prior to employment in harm's way.

The MCCO vision is providing the customer the most realistic, fiscally responsible, contemporary operating environment possible to train joint, interagency, inter-governmental, multi-national, and non-governmental (JIIM-NGO) teams. Focused on supporting training missions associated with protecting the homeland and defending the peace, MCCO has additionally embraced the research, development, test, and experimentation community presenting it with an unique opportunity to synchronize and synergize testing and training.

With a mission focus on the whole of nation team, MCCO provides mobilization and training capacity for military and civilian organizations in preparation for their deployments/employments:

  • Overseas in support of stability and reconstruction operations within failed, failing, or crisis-engulfed states.
  • Domestically in support of prevention, protection, recovery, and response operations directed towards the mitigation of major natural and man-made catastrophes.
  • Both overseas and domestically in support of operations directed toward deterring, disrupting, and defeating terrorist threats.

Additionally, the MCCO offers the capacity to integrate operational testing and evaluation of technology into on-going training to assist in rapidly deploying technology solutions to the field.

Muscatatuck Center for Complex Operations-A Stone Soup Approach

As a way to facilitate the integration of Camp Atterbury and Muscatatuck, the vision was translated into a business-focused plan and organizational model. The business plan concentrates on building strong partnerships through a lean model that encourages innovation and creativity, and provides agility uncommon of most military structures.

Stone Soup, an old French folk tale transformed across many tellings, speaks of hungry soldiers passing through a famine-ravaged village. Unable to get anyone to feed them, they set up a boiling pot of water in the town square and ceremoniously tossed in some river stones. Their curiosity aroused, one by one, villagers were encouraged to each contribute a carrot, radish, cabbage, etc. from their meager stocks. The watery broth became a rich and robust "stone soup" shared and celebrated by the entire village. The moral: partnership creates a plenty greater than individuals could enjoy through their contributions alone. This stone soup approach was translated into an MCCO strategy of partnership and program development that continues to evolve.

While partnering is not necessarily unique across U.S. government agencies, the depth and breadth of MCCO's intent and accomplishment to date is remarkable. Teaming with multiple agencies, academic institutions, and businesses the MCCO is transforming training opportunities into an affordable, rich texture of interwoven operations and opportunities that create unique training complexities not easily achieved elsewhere.

The MCCO is the integrating headquarters for a consortium of state, federal, and private facilities, capabilities, and programs. It operates under a unique business plan designed to bring together what otherwise would be stove-piped activities. Activities that, working together, form a common, highly realistic training and testing operating environment enabling the whole of nation team to train together as a team of equals prior to deployment/employment.

The business plan brings together all services, federal and state agencies, universities and colleges, private research activities, and not-for-profit businesses and programs. The plan design seeks to create the elements of the contemporary operating environment at little or no cost by capitalizing on the synergies generated by program cooperation and integration.

Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center

Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center (CAJMTC) is a federally-owned, state-operated training and testing facility. Designated as a U.S. Army power generation platform and persistent mobilization site, CAJMTC provides the full suite of ranges, maneuver space, facilities, and airspace required to train the 21st century JIIM-NGO team. Capabilities are being significantly expanded over the next five years so as to create a capacity to simultaneously support an infantry brigade combat team or Marine expeditionary unit, an additional functional or support brigade, and a large mobilization load. The training capability will include the whole spectrum of live-virtual-constructive training domains with the capacity to integrate internal training events with external global exercises. The CAJMTC assets include special use airspace (both restricted and military operating areas), an integrated air-ground range, and the FCC license to employ electronic devices found in today's operating environments.

Muscatatuck Urban Training Center

The Muscatatuck Urban Training Center (MUTC) is a state-owned, federal-licensed, state-operated advanced urban training facility. A "living, breathing city," MUTC is capable of supporting the stability and reconstruction training requirements of both kinetic and non-kinetic capabilities-with heavy emphasis on the non-kinetic. The site incorporates a design feature that seeks to replicate the contemporary operating environment in its three complexity vectors: infrastructure, electromagnetic/informational, and human. The site contains the full spectrum of urban critical infrastructure, all of which is operational and all of which can be attacked/compromised to support specific training scenarios. Training venues support the essential tasks lists for the whole of government and whole of nation team components. Like CAJMTC, MUTC assets include special use airspace (both restricted and military operating area), an integrated air-ground range, and the FCC license to employ electronic capabilities found in today's operating environments.

Current Training & Programs

Camp Atterbury's current core mission is supporting First Army and the mobilization of thousands of military personnel each year. Through creative resource scheduling, Guard, Reserve and Active Component also conduct pre-mobilization and sustainment training. The two aerial gunnery ranges support a number of Air Force, Reserve and Guard aircraft each day as well as supporting Army, Marine, and other air support missions. An airspace system of restricted, military operational airspace and other airspace management structures blanket the facilities and surrounding areas offer necessary airspace complexities. Noteworthy programs include:

  • Civilian-military training. In 2009, the Camp Atterbury-Muscatatuck complex was selected by the Office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP) to initiate a unique immersion training exercise focused on special needs of the civilians deploying to provincial reconstruction teams, district support teams, embassy support, and other specialty areas. Working closely with the SRAP office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, and the Foreign Service Institute, the MCCO and the Indiana National Guard have developed a unique immersion training experience for deploying civilians. Collaboration with Purdue and Indiana Universities, as well as other academic institutions, offers robust cultural, language, and hard science technical experience and capabilities. The Civilian Expeditionary Workforce program and Civilian Response Corps are also developing programs to capitalize on MCCO capabilities.

  • Homeland security and defense. Over the past two years, large ARNORTH/NORTHCOM exercises such as 2007 Ardent Sentry and 2009 Vigilant Response have used Camp Atterbury as a base support installation and Muscatatuck Urban Training Center as exercise core. The rich facility complexities coupled with superior support services of the two installations is making the MCCO facilities a destination of choice for large-scale homeland security and defense exercises. Muscatatuck is used for civil support team validation exercises and a variety of federal, state, and local law enforcement and emergency management training venues.

  • Research, development, testing and experimentation (RDTE). One of MCCO's core mission sets is to support RDTE and link it to concurrent training, offering the testing program offices a remarkable opportunity for "beta" testing equipment and techniques. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) J-9 Experimentation established a RDTE enclave to better support their cyclical testing requirements, and MCCO is assisting Test Resource Management Command of Research, Development, and Experimentation Command in the Joint Urban Environment Test Capability and other urban research projects.
  • Special Operations/USMC. The East Coast Navy SEAL Scout Sniper Course has called Camp Atterbury home since the late 1980s. In FY 2008 the Navy consolidated the West Coast Scout Sniper Course into a single location at Camp Atterbury. SEAL and other SOCOM weapons modifications and support come from Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane which is located in Crane Indiana and is an MCCO partner. Other SOCOM units such as 5th Special Forces Group, 160th Special Air Operations Regiment, and others have long taken advantage of Camp Atterbury's range and training complexes and now look to Muscatatuck's unique urban environment for specialized training. Capitalizing on extensive, non-contiguous MCCO training capabilities, the USMC conducts realistic urban training and exercises a Marine expeditionary unit each year.

The Future

The MCCO continues to build facilities, capacity, and expertise through development of robust partnerships with joint, intergovernmental, interagency, multi-national and nongovernmental organizations. An intense customer-focused and non-prescriptive support approach (MCCO does not tell users who, what, or how to train) is the heart of MCCO's ethos. Fostering an innovative spirit of collaboration lets users own and tailor their programs. Taking advantage of the benefits, economies, and synergies of the evolving programs and partnerships at MCCO empowers users to expand and enhance their own initiatives, often well beyond their individual capabilities. The future vision is a shared vision-an unfolding reality shaped by JIIM-NGO leadership who reshape paradigms, recognize opportunity, and reward innovation:

  • The Muscatatuck Urban Training Center is a living, breathing city of businesses, a school, and language, culture, government and social/cultural structures populated by 1,500 to 2,000 residents and employees-a city that is "in play", every day, in its entirety.

  • Camp Atterbury and Muscatatuck Urban Training Center each support up to 5,000-person exercises with the agility and opportunity offered by strong partnerships that span a noncontiguous south central Indiana training box.
  • MCCO provides the U.S. and its allies a unique whole of government and whole of nation training and deployment capability.

For further information about MCCO, CAJMTC, and MUTC please call (812) 526-1499 ext. 2420.

Table of Contents | Foreword | Introduction | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3

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One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias