US development efforts in Afghanistan led by Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) are reportedly wrapping up, according to the Wall Street Journal. These joint civilian-military teams made up of service-members, troops, diplomats, and experts have been responsible for disbursing aid and overseeing development projects across Afghanistan and, earlier, Iraq. That work has generated both praise and controversy: praise for expeditionary, interagency cooperation, and controversy about whether their short-term focus affects sustainability and if their heavy military fingerprint compromises the message.
Funding is one part of the military fingerprint. PRTs have relied substantially on the Defense Department’s Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP). Indeed, the Wall Street Journal article ties the PRT wind-down to reductions in CERP funding.
CERP has plummeted since 2009-10, yet the data doesn’t seem to predetermine an Afghanistan PRT outcome. One of the two wars consuming CERP money (Iraq) ended in the same time frame, contributing to that reduction. Meanwhile funds were relatively stable in 2011-12 and are requested to remain so in 2013, as shown by the graph below:
PRTs will long be studied for their influence on civil-military relations. If that case history is preparing to close, though, it would seem to be more related to the timeline for transitioning security and governance responsibilities to the Afghans, as the head of Helmand’s PRT observed, than because of CERP funding.