The current public discourse about Afghanistan is largely focused on U.S. national security interest rather than the needs of the Afghan people. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. general in Afghanistan, has requested at least 40,000 additional U.S. troops in order to quell an insurgency. The Obama administration is weighing its options, while many politicians and the U.S. public are wary about committing more resources to a war that has dragged on for more than eight years. A fundamental change in approach is in order. The United States must make genuine efforts to address the underlying causes of poverty, conflict and insecurity. MCC partners in Afghanistan are clear in saying that sustainable economic development can mitigate conflict and bring peace. The United States must work to prioritize these efforts. Unfortunately, even small U.S. efforts for economic development have been militarized through the use of Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs).
A PRT is a military unit with embedded civilian personnel that is responsible for development and reconstruction efforts. The use of PRTs in Afghanistan has become widely accepted as the new model for civil-military cooperation and an interagency approach to economic development. This, however, presents some serious problems and concerns.
In short the use of PRTs raise the following concerns:
- Using the military as tool for development and reconstruction is the wrong tool for the job and works to undermine long term sustainability.
- PRTs divert funds and resources from sustainable development efforts.
- PRTs essentially have the effect of militarizing aid and its use infringes upon humanitarian space.
MCC has produced a brief that outlines the problems with using PRTs in Afghanistan.