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Iraq Provincial Reconstruction Team Handbook

Handbook 11-03
December 2010

CALL Handbook 11-03: Iraq Provincial Reconstruction Team Handbook

Chapter 4 - Implementing Strategy: Planning, Developing Goals and Objectives, and Measuring Effectiveness


Provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs) have used a variety of formal and informal planning processes as well as a short- and long-term focus throughout their existence. However, a consensus is emerging that PRTs are most effective when they develop a multiyear plan of action based on their mission analysis and shaped by their analysis of what is driving instability and conflict in their area. The PRT plan should be:

  • Driven by its mission guidance and directed tasks. In addition to the PRT's own plans, the PRT needs to interface with and help implement other plans. There may be multiple documents (host nation, U.S. government, international [e.g., United Nations or North Atlantic Treaty Organization]) that should be acquired and understood. Some U.S. planning documents may be classified, so the PRT may need to work with contacts, usually at the embassy, to learn what strategies are relevant. Although the responsibility for coordinating these various frameworks falls at a higher level than the PRT, to be fully effective, the PRT leadership needs to be cognizant of all relevant strategies and the degree to which the PRT will interface with each strategy. Whether the environment is counterinsurgency, post-conflict stabilization, reconstruction, or capacity building, the PRT must ensure that its strategy, plans, and actions support and further those overarching objectives.
  • Shaped by a full understanding of the area assigned to the PRT. As described below, the plan should be developed following an assessment of the threats to stability in the PRT's area of responsibility (AOR), including factors that increase and decrease the likelihood of conflict. The assessment should strive to determine the key impediments to achieving mission success. There may be instability based on tribal competition, conflict perpetrated by criminal or insurgent activities, or weak local institutions that prevent effective extension of the national government. This assessment provides a common operational picture for all U.S. government actors in the province that will shape, sequence, and focus their efforts towards achieving the mission of the PRT.
  • Multi-year. PRT members understand that achieving success in their AOR will take many years, even though they are often deployed for no more than a year. Rather than a series of one-year plans, it is important to develop a multiyear (three to five) strategy that promotes continuity of effort. The strategy should include: (1) Key strategic interventions that are necessary to address the causes of instability and conflict; and (2) A long-term end-state goal and the required objectives to achieve sustainable stability sufficient to provide an environment where normal development programs can flourish. The strategy can and should be reviewed and routinely revised, particularly before unit rotations or large personnel turnovers or as guidance or conditions change. The strategic objectives provide the basis for a multiyear implementation plan that should cover a time frame of at least two years to facilitate continuity.
  • Interagency. The PRT is an interagency team and needs to plan as a team. Ideally, the PRT's planning team should include functional, regional, and planning experts representing all the agencies active in the PRT. There may be a tendency for each agency to want to perform separate assessments and then build separate action plans based on those assessments. Institutional culture, personal expertise, rotation cycles, and separate reporting chains can all push PRT members in this direction. But without a joint assessment, strategy, and implementation plan, the PRT will lack a common understanding of the situation, making it hard to agree on where resources should be focused and prioritize and integrate each agency's efforts.

Integrated assessment

PRTs are deployed to foster stabilization and support U.S. national goals. A PRT's actions, projects, and programs should all support these goals. To do this, PRT members need to assess and understand the factors that cause instability and conflict in their area to develop a multiyear strategy.

The local causes of instability and conflict may be similar to those driving the national conflict, but there likely will be additional complexities and local aspects of the problem (e.g., local resource issues and relationships among local actors, tribes, sects, or groups). The PRT's job is to understand what is causing the instability and conflict in its area so that its interventions can reduce conflict and promote a more stable environment.

While the complexity of a PRT's area of operations cannot always be fully analyzed by specific doctrine or any one methodology, there are several good conflict assessment frameworks that can form the basis for a PRT's expanded assessment process:

  • Conflict is frequently conceptualized and assessed in terms of sources/causes, parties, actors, "drivers," and potential triggers. The sources and root causes of conflict can be described in terms of stakeholders' frustrated needs and grievances.
  • The "drivers" of conflict are the dynamics of how those frustrations and grievances are expressed and manipulated. Triggers are often thought of as shocks to the system (e.g., a drought) or key events (e.g., an election) that spark conflict.
  • The PRT needs to assess the potential drivers of instability and conflict in its AOR. These may include resource competition, sectarian animosity, ethnic violence, lack of meaningful economic opportunity, and culturally sanctioned vendettas. This assessment entails mapping the social, cultural, political, and economic networks the population lives with daily. The mapping is not a doctoral dissertation, but it should touch on the key aspects of the environment that impact the level of conflict.

Assessment tools:

There are several common conflict assessment tools that can be used by the PRT:

  • Interagency conflict assessment framework (ICAF) is a U.S. government interagency process. ICAF is a strategic-level process that draws on existing conflict assessment procedures (e.g., tactical conflict assessment framework [TCAF]) used by U.S. government departments, agencies, and bureaus as well as some procedures used by international organizations. ICAF organizes all these assessments into a common framework that is used by the U.S. government to gain a common understanding of the country or region and conduct and coordinate planning.
  • U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) TCAF designed for the strategic and operational level and developed to inform tactical level planning and program design.

Performing a conflict assessment:

Listening to and engaging with the local population, including different levels of society and the various groups in the PRT's area, are keys to a good assessment. Typical steps in a conflict assessment include:

  • Collecting data (through interviews, observations, field-based activities, or secondary sources). Data should include information on background factors and underlying risks, such as stakeholders' interests/needs; opinion leaders' motivations/means; potential triggers; potential "spoilers"; and international or regional actors or factors.
  • Describing the dynamics (conflict "drivers"), which are factors that contribute to escalation of the conflict.
  • Prioritizing the "drivers" according to the degree they contribute to escalation of the conflict.
  • Identifying conflict mitigation and resolution mechanisms.

Maturity model for Iraq:

This is an internationally recognized tool for assessing and tracking the progress of major change management programs. The assessment will be completed by reading generic statements (provided as Appendix E to this handbook) and making an objective assessment of where your local government organization best fits the descriptions.

Mitigate conflict and build local capacity

In the follow-on planning phase, PRT planners decide how to mitigate the dynamics that drive the conflict and strengthen the dynamics that mitigate or defuse the conflict. Factors that demonstrate local and regional capacity usually contribute to mitigation of the conflict. These factors include the legitimacy and effectiveness of the host government; its political, social, economic, and security institutions; and the resilience of civil society.

In most interventions in countries in crisis, the U.S. government goal is to achieve a sustainable peace where the host government is able to meet the fundamental needs of its citizens for security, social well-being, just governance, and economic livelihood. In many reconstruction and stabilization environments, this institutional capacity is limited or absent. Identifying the areas of need, mentoring key individuals, facilitating training, and focusing intervention are all potential tools.

Building governmental capacity above the provincial level is clearly beyond the scope of the PRT and is the responsibility of the national-level program; however, the PRT is best positioned to understand the specific needs within the province, district, or regional area within its responsibility and use the information to design local programs and inform national-level planning. While every situation is different, local governments often need help developing processes for citizen input, prioritizing government programs and projects, implementing budgeting processes, and establishing public security capabilities. Keep in mind that not all institutions are governmental; building the capacity of traditional governing mechanisms and civil society (religious groups, business institutions, and political parties) may also be required.

Figure 4-1 below provides a visual summary of planning process goals (to increase the capacity of local institutions to respond to local needs and wants, while reducing the drivers of conflict).

Graphic showing summary of planning process goals
Figure 4-1

Developing Long-Term Objectives

Once the PRT has assessed local needs, identified key drivers of conflict, and built connections to local institutions, it needs to develop intervention strategies to be implemented through an action plan. For example, if the two major tribes in a PRT's area are engaged in ongoing, low-level hostilities over historic grievances and competition for scarce water resources, the PRT may decide it needs a strategy for a peace-building process supported by a water management strategy to address this underlying source of conflict. Taken together, the major mission elements or objectives should be:

  • Developed from an assessment of the causes of conflict and instability.
  • Necessary to achieve the goal and succeed.
  • Sufficient to achieve the overarching objectives or goal.
  • Stated as measurable, realistically ambitious objectives.
  • Integrated across agency stovepipes when necessary to achieve the goal.
  • Able to help identify cross-sector issues that may be overlooked by the bureaucracy.

The PRT may not have the resources and tools to address larger and more complex issues. In these cases, the PRT should flag these parts of the plan for consideration by the embassy and higher military headquarters. For example, the PRT may identify a corrupt and poorly trained police force as a significant factor undermining local support for the national government. Police training likely needs to be conducted as part of a national program and should be raised with the embassy. However, setting up a public safety commission to represent citizen interests in interactions with police authorities might be something the PRT could help with at the local level.

The Office of Provincial Affairs (OPA) established the following required objectives for emphasis by all PRTs throughout Iraq:

  • All PRTs will emphasize reporting via front channel cables. PRTs and their partnered military units have extensive contact networks including government, religious and tribal, business, and political leaders.
    • PRTs will mine those resources to provide timely early warning of possible signs of instability and to identify potential political, economic, and security targets of opportunity for exploitation.
    • This reporting/early warning function becomes increasingly vital as the number of U.S. forces is reduced. PRT leaders will use all U.S. government resources in their provinces and on their teams as appropriate to ensure reporting reflects the most accurate picture and analysis of issues in the province.
  • PRTs will focus their messaging to achieve progress on U.S. strategic interests in their provinces. Most provinces have active local and regional media who are receptive to PRT interviews and releases.
    • Robust outreach enables the United States to channel key messages and themes through PRTs to local media and through public forums throughout Iraq. This is important for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the degree to which the positions of Iraqi national leaders are shaped by local discussions.
    • PRTs will continue to provide ready, personal access to an extensive and diverse array of political, religious, and tribal leaders throughout Iraq. This level of personal contact is crucial in enabling the United States to bring to bear at the right place and time appropriate levels of diplomatic, economic, or other pressure in an effort to mitigate drivers of instability.
    • PRTs will continue to provide a physical presence at local events to serve as a balance to other international actors and to show the United States' determination and resolve to stand with the Iraqi people.
  • Public diplomacy becomes increasingly relevant as security gains present new and exciting opportunities for public diplomacy initiatives.
    • This point was made dramatically when a large delegation of Iraqi provincial officials accompanied government of Iraq officials to Washington, DC, for an investment conference. Near Eastern Affairs-Iraq (NEA-I) was able to expand the agenda for the provincial officials' portion of the trip to include trips to Washington museums, the Capitol, the Maryland Statehouse, and the government offices in Anne Arundel County, MD.
    • As a result of that effort, half of the Iraqi provinces are now under the leadership of people who have seen a vision of a future Iraq in a free, democratic, market-driven society operating as an ally of the United States. Similarly powerful impressions are being pursued in International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) candidates throughout Iraq.
    • Public diplomacy officers need to maintain their close relationships with Iraqi local and regional media; provide training to the Iraqi media; provide books, computers, and other educational materials to Iraqi students; and provide Americans with information on how the United States is making progress in Iraq and how the lives of Iraqis are improving.
  • Democracy is developing in Iraq. PRTs will continue to support the election process.
    • PRTs will assist the local governorate elections offices (GEOs) as they struggle to deal with the aftermath of national elections when the GEOs are subject to ridicule by the election losers.
    • PRTs will also help the GEOs deal with the complexities of the local elections ballot. PRTs will continue to identify, recruit, and support nongovernmental organizations to support political participation by vulnerable populations, women, and minorities.
    • The considerable strain of the national elections in 2010 are likely to be followed by the first elections for sub-provincial governments, which will finally bring democracy up close and personal in every village in Iraq as neighbors vie for seats on local councils. These local efforts will present unique challenges for PRT political and governance advisers.
  • As a politically and economically emerging state, Iraq remains vulnerable to those determined to siphon public funds to feed powerful political patronages that would ultimately destroy democracy in Iraq by undermining public oversight and the legitimate checks and balances on corruption and inefficiency.
    • Iraq has limited time before the full potential of its great oil wealth is realized. Without proper systems of accountability in place at the provincial levels, those funds will absolutely corrupt the political system.
    • It is crucial that PRTs in every province continue daily engagements with their Iraqi partners to put in place the most acceptable systems of accountability, including transparent budget development processes; budget processes that allocate funding to strategic capital projects rather than toward sectarian or personal interests; effective legislative oversight capabilities to reduce government corruption and inefficiency; budget processes that are open to the media; computerized budget management and tracking systems (e.g., Governorates Accounting and Project Tracking Information System); and trained Iraqi project management staff to include project managers, engineers, legal staff, and accountants.
  • PRT engineers will focus on advising and assisting in the planning and development of the public infrastructure essential to support private investment, including the planning and construction of transportation, communication, water, and sewage networks. PRT engineers will expand their level of assistance in development of scientifically based master plans and advise and assist municipalities throughout Iraq as they struggle with the design and maintenance plans for major public works improvements.
  • The new national government will present challenges for provincial governments as old lines of communication between provincial officials and national ministries are lost. PRTs will work diligently throughout the six-to-nine-month period following the seating of the ministries to reestablish those relationships. This is especially important in those Sunni or Kurdish provinces that are less likely to have strong allies in key ministries. It is also important in those less affluent Shia provinces, whose voices are often lost in the sands around Baghdad.
  • Each PRT will use all available U.S. government resources to map out key provincial leaders and the networks by which they are connected to national leaders and leaders in other provinces.
  • PRTs remain on the forefront as the guardians of human rights. They frequent courts, detention centers, prisons, police stations, and communities throughout Iraq.
    • The United States cannot allow the Iraqis to lose the vital human rights aspect of the struggle or Iraq will become a forum for revenge.
    • PRTs will continue by their actions to remind the Iraqis that Iraqi sacrifices, pain, and struggle have a higher moral purpose, and that purpose justifies further sacrifice to avoid revenge inspired by those who seek to dehumanize the struggle.
    • PRTs will continue to respond diligently, sincerely, and promptly to allegations of prisoner abuse, unfair treatment of minorities, and government neglect in order to assure the people that the world is watching and those guilty of human rights abuses will be held accountable for their actions.
  • Private investment remains the key to a successful Iraq:
    • PRTs will continue their training and mentoring of public officials in the appropriate role that government must play in attracting the high quality investment necessary to build a strong and diverse economy capable of serving the needs of the Iraqi people.
    • Iraqi officials too often look upon private investors as prey rather than as valuable partners in the development of a strong community.
    • PRTs will support Chambers of Commerce, trade associations, business round tables, bankers associations, and other groups who educate and cooperate with public officials.
    • PRTs will continue their support for the Provincial Investment Commission (PIC) in the PIC's role as the business development arm of the provincial government.
    • Transfer of agricultural technology will remain a major objective for each PRT. Agriculture remains the number one private sector employer in Iraq.
      • Agriculture in Iraq has a track record of over 5,000 years; however, the agricultural technology in Iraq is over 5,000 years old.
      • There is a tremendous demand among the Iraqis for the advice and assistance provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture PRT agricultural advisers.
      • The success of the greenhouse, pivot irrigation, and other initiatives are readily apparent from the air and in the market stalls. Those initiatives began as PRT/brigade combat team-initiated training seminars in agricultural extension offices throughout Iraq.
  • PRT rule of law advisers will continue to work in every province as part of the nationwide network of rule of law advisers under the direction of the office of the rule of law coordinator. Only through such a comprehensive, nationally coordinated effort can the United States achieve the major changes necessary to:
    • Unite the Iraqi judges and police as an effective crime-fighting team.
    • End traditional reliance on interrogations-based confessions.
    • Elevate the judiciary to a co-equal branch of government; improve legal education for judges, attorneys, and the police; and garner the necessary public confidence in the judiciary.

PRT discretionary objectives:

In addition to these OPA-directed priority objectives required for all PRTs, each PRT will also engage in those discretionary objectives that both support the joint campaign plan and are appropriate to that province. PRTs will not engage in any activity inconsistent with the U.S. government goals outlined in the joint common plan (JCP).

Develop an Implementation Plan with Tasks, Activities, and Actions

The implementation plan consists of the major mission elements or operational objectives the PRT has identified and the tasks, activities, and actions the PRT should undertake to achieve them. In the example involving competition over water resources, the PRT may want to seek input from a hydrologist. The hydrologist might recommend a regional solution, which might be expensive and need to be referred for higher-level action. The hydrologist might also identify smaller local projects that would improve lives in the short term and provide space for the peace-building process to proceed. The completion of these projects might be identified by the PRT as essential tasks. Essential tasks should be:

  • Necessary and, taken together, sufficient to achieve the major mission element (MME)/objective.
  • Stated as measurable outcomes.
  • Managed by implementing agencies or PRT members.

The action plan should identify which agency or PRT member has the lead for a specific program or action and the source of funding. However, not all the essential tasks involve expending program funds; some may involve diplomatic, political, or other initiatives undertaken by the PRT's leadership and advisers. The plan's time frame varies according to the circumstances, the nature of U.S. involvement, and the overall strategic plan, but should be at least two years long to provide continuity of PRT personnel. While actions and programs for the current year will need to be identified, the MME/objectives will likely be multiyear.

The PRT constantly needs to balance conflicting goals. Is effective direct intervention in local disputes more important than efforts to increase the capacity of local security forces? Should limited reconstruction funds be used to build necessary government infrastructure or to increase the general population's general welfare?

There will always be tradeoffs in the planning process, including staffing and budgetary cycles, limits on uses of funds, national versus provincial imperatives, different time frames for achieving immediate security requirements versus stability, and other constraints that will affect what can be done. But a good planning process and framework leads to the best use of resources within the inevitable constraints.

Given the changing nature and stability dynamics of the AOR, the implementation plan should also identify triggers for contingency plan activation to support local and national government response. For instance, natural disasters significantly strain nascent government capacity. The ability of the local government to respond to natural disaster can reduce resulting instability and impact the population's perception of government legitimacy. A PRT work plan with goals, objectives, and action officers to support provincial government response can help the provincial government address short-term stability requirements while also addressing long-term capacity building.

Measuring Performance (Metrics)

PRTs will be asked to assess their progress and report on it. This assessment will probably include the development of indicators or metrics as part of a process called performance monitoring. Performance monitoring involves the repeated review of reported information to inform decision making. The reported information is a combination of metrics, other information gathered, and the review and analysis of that information. The purposes of performance monitoring are to gather and present systematic, analytic information for the PRT's own use in assessing the impact and effects of its efforts; to inform decision makers up the chain of command; and to report to Congress and the public. The best time to consider how the success of the PRT's plan will be measured is while the plan is being developed. Note that there will also be demands from higher agency levels for assessments that may or may not track those of the PRTs.

Impact assessment can be difficult in a reconstruction and stabilization context - the full impact of a PRT's activities may not become clear for some time, and public databases that might track changes in indicators over time may not exist or be reliable. Nonetheless, it is important that the PRT assess its output - the immediate effect of its activities - and the short- and long-term impact of these activities. Ultimately, the impact is what matters. Output is usually easiest to measure (e.g., number of wells drilled, schools built, and police trained), but it does not measure the effects the PRT is trying to achieve. Outcomes or intermediate effects (e.g., how many have access to clean water, growth in school enrollment, and public perception of police) and longer-term impacts of activities on the overall situation (e.g., impact of wells on local power structure, perception of education's impact on social values or economic prospects, impact of police training on public security, and support for the government) may require more creativity. A few clear, insightful measures are better than many indirect or less obvious ones. Examples of indicators include:

  • Impact indicator. Overarching goals are achieved:
    • Functioning economy that provides tax revenue and facilitates licit economic activity:
      • Percent of country's economy that can be taxed by the federal government.
      • Relative personal income rates across key identity groups.
    • Government that ensures the rule of law and protects civilians:
      • Polling on "how safe citizens feel" across identity groups.
      • Human rights assessments.
    • Political processes that are seen as legitimate and credible:
      • Participation in political processes by major groups or factions.
      • Civil/political rights assessments.
  • Outcome indicator. Measures the effect of activities on achieving broader objectives:
    • Increase in employment.
    • Shorter pretrial detention periods.
    • Increase in participation in political processes by former combatants.

While output indicators can help PRTs track their efforts, when U.S. government planners and policymakers use the terms "performance" or "results," they are referring to those objectives nearer the top - at least at the outcome level.

Continuity process

In the time-based conditions for PRTs in Iraq, at a certain point the long-term plans will be incorporated into work plans that will reach to the summer of 2011 time frame. Continuity will become much less important, and transitioning to the provincial governments will become more important. However, some of the principles of the continuity process will still apply.

PRT staff is subject to a high rate of turnover. Civilians generally serve 12 months but often have gaps between assignments, while core military members serve 12 months and often have assignment overlaps. However, some military members may only serve six months. Unfortunately, changes in personnel often result in changes in PRT direction, objectives, and programs. Without a long-term plan, new arrivals are left to improvise their own programs, drawing on their own expertise, which results in choppy and ineffective PRT programming that wastes time and resources.

A long-term common operational picture and strategic implementation plan assists with continuity. During their predeployment training, PRT members should strive to understand the specific area analysis and implementation plan provided by their predecessors. The new PRT should be aware of the causes of instability and conflict; strategies and implementation interventions, programs, activities, and measures of effectiveness as they relate to its work; the objectives of the maneuver brigade and other PRTs in the particular region; and the longer term U.S. government provincial goals and objectives. In addition to forwarding the planning documents, PRTs and military teams should complete the following tasks during the last month of deployment:

  • Capture their experiences (both lessons learned and good practices) and present them to the incoming PRT, maneuver commanders and staffs, and implementing partners.
  • Send materials from briefings to military and civilian PRT training units in the United States to update training materials.
  • Attend and assist with the training of incoming teams and overlap with their successors, if possible.
  • Highlight particularly valuable lessons learned on how to work in the environment, how to be a team player with civilian/military teams, how to engage the local community appropriately, and how to alter programming based on local input while making it complementary to the PRT's and the maneuver commander's goals.

Funding Guidance and Authorities

Funding for activities within the PRT AOR will likely come from several sources, although country- and regional-specific circumstances preclude a definitive list. Examples include economic support funds (ESF) (Department of State [DOS]/USAID); quick response funds (DOS); overseas humanitarian, disaster, and civic aid (Department of Defense [DOD]); Commander's Emergency Response Program (CERP) (DOD); and International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INCLE) (DOS).

In many cases, such as ESF, quick response funds, and INCLE, the PRT is likely to play an oversight or supporting role. In Iraq and Afghanistan, CERP provides military commanders with funds they can directly program and disburse. Legal restrictions on the use of certain funds and the existing sanctions on the country in question require the separate management of these funds by the organization responsible for their expenditure. In addition, constraints, including prohibitions on certain uses of the funds, must be taken into account in planning how and whether the PRT will undertake specific activities.

In cases where a PRT leader has discretionary authority in funding, PRT leadership must be fully aware of the guidelines and authorities that are attached to each funding source and determine the best use of these funds. This responsibility includes which funds are best used for specific projects. Balancing this multitude of considerations is an essential task of the PRT's interagency leadership to ensure an effective, efficient, and sustainable work plan.

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