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Cablegate: Prt Team Leaders Conference - Bringing Teamwork And

VZCZCXRO0534
PP RUEHBC RUEHDA RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHGB #0857/01 0801507
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 201507Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6361
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 BAGHDAD 000857

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O.12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREZ IZ

SUBJECT: PRT TEAM LEADERS CONFERENCE - BRINGING TEAMWORK AND
BILATERAL RELATIONSHIPS TO THE PROVINCIAL LEVEL

1. Summary. On March 3 and 4, the embassy's Office of Provincial
Affairs (OPA) hosted the second quarterly Provincial Reconstruction
Team (PRT) Team Leaders Conference in Baghdad. This gathering of
nearly every PRT, ePRT, and RRT team leader provided an ideal venue
for State, DoD, and interagency participants to share lessons
learned, bring focus to U.S. and local national issues that can
impact progress for Iraq, and look ahead at options for
condition-driven changes and adjustments for PRTs in response to the
evolving Iraqi economic and political landscape. Themes that
resounded throughout the conference included the incalculable value
of strong State and military relations at the team level as well as
the necessity for the teams to establish strong rapport and trust
with their Iraqi counterparts at the provincial level. Budget
execution, provincial government capacity, and private sector
development are key areas necessary for Iraq to progress from its
current condition to one of political and economic sustainability.
This sustainability would serve as a primary indicator to signal the
start of the mission's transition to a more traditional bilateral
relationship with the Government of Iraq. End summary.

2. This two-day conference included participation from nearly every
PRT, ePRT, and RRT out of the 31 teams operating in Iraq, including
the teams lead by the Italians and the Koreans. Observers from
MNF-I and other military components, embassy offices, and the
interagency attended this event. Presenters included senior
military officials, embassy officials, UN representatives, and other
representatives from both the governmental and non-governmental
community. Over 90 persons participated in part of all of the
conference. This cable provides a look into the overall results of
the conference, and considers both the focus areas for the PRTs
during 2008, and the transition of the program in the out-years. A
separate cable will address issues discussed in a special Team
Leader session.

----------------------------------------
AMBASSADOR AND OPA DIRECTOR SET THE TONE
----------------------------------------

3. The Ambassador inaugurated the conference, pointing out that the
teams are nearing the end of a one-year post-surge expansion. He
proffered the rhetorical question to the team leaders - how do you
work yourselves out of a job - to illustrate the temporary nature of
the PRT, and the need to find effective ways to achieve success with
their Iraqi counterparts. Success in the provinces will lead to a
conditions-based and not calendar-based program transition. Until
we reach that point, he offered, each PRT should continue to reach
out to all corners of their respective province to positively impact
the lives of as many Iraqis as possible.

4. The cornerstone to provincial government effectiveness, the
Ambassador underscored, is the ability for budget execution on all
levels of government, emphasizing that linkages within the provinces
as well as back to Baghdad are absolutely vital. With provincial
elections a distinct possibility, the teams need to prepare to
support and work with staff from UNAMI, US-based and
international-based NGOs. Finally, as US funding for Iraq continues
to decrease, the teams must look for ways to use their limited
resources to fill funding gaps in the Iraqi budget, while working
with Iraqi counterparts to request and expend Iraqi funds in the
provinces. Again, solid linkages at the provincial and ministry
level are paramount.

5. Following the Ambassador, the OPA Director provided the overall
perspective for the conference, challenging the team leaders to
start thinking about and discussing the factors and conditions
within a province that would signal the eventual transformation to a
more traditional bilateral relationship with the Government of Iraq.
With that understanding in mind, the conference focus returned to
present PRT activities, in particular budget execution and team
effectiveness working in the provinces, both being top concerns of
the Washington interagency. While some PRTs have expanded their
reach through the use of satellite offices, for example, the OPA
Director suggested the team leaders not limit themselves in how they
can improve interactions with their Iraqi counterparts at the
provincial and local level.

--------------------------------------------- ----
CONFERENCE RESULTS AND THE TRANSITION TO NORMALCY
--------------------------------------------- ----

6. The following are the highlights for more than 15 separate
briefings and discussion sessions:

-- Political Briefing (Provincial Powers Law): POL section
representatives provided an in-depth analysis and assessment on the
impact of law's veto by VP Adel Abdul Mehdi; follow-on discussions
covered possible impacts of the recent veto, underscoring that the
Elections Law still remains tied to this legislation.

-- Political Briefing (Provincial Elections Overview and Panel
Discussion): Representatives from the Political Section, USAID,

BAGHDAD 00000857 002 OF 004


UNAMI, and IFES explained that due to the complex timeline leading
to elections, preparations continue despite the lack of an Elections
Law or fixed date for provincial elections. The Council of
Representatives (COR) and the Independent High Electoral Commission
(IHEC) will need to consider and decide on a number of vital issues
including voter eligibility requirements, IDPs, open versus closed
list, and candidate eligibility, to name a few. All panel members
emphasized that the elections will be an all-Iraqi event with
limited US support. At the same time, the PRTs will play a key role
in this exercise, both to support election visitors needing access
to the provinces, and also to provide atmospherics to the embassy
before and during the elections season.

-- CETI Briefing (Coordinator for Economic Transition in Iraq):
Ambassador Ries provided an overview of the economic and business
situation, with special emphasis on budget execution, state owned
enterprises, and banking. He highlighted the top five priorities in
CETI: Ministry capacity, foreign and domestic investment, generation
of energy, agriculture (represented by nearly one-quarter of the
Iraqi population), and employment. Ambassador Ries called for the
PRTs to provide economic indicators from the grassroots level, even
if only anecdotal accounts on activities within the respective
province.

-- MNC-I (Commanding General, 18th Airborne): LTG Austin, the newly
arrived Corps commander, emphasized that success depends entirely on
partnerships between the PRT and the military, noting that success
is all about teamwork and not individual efforts. He called on both
State and military to promote cross education, to make the effort to
understand one another's work culture, and to apply that knowledge
towards problem solving in Iraq. LTG Austin challenged the
participants to work collectively on difficult tasks, using the
CLC/Sons of Iraq as an example of a US initiative that is now worth
our collective efforts to find a solution to transition these
security elements into the Iraqi mainstream. In follow-on
discussions, senior members of LTG Austin's staff reinforced the
need for State and DoD members to make proactive efforts to further
strengthen the relationships and operational capacity of the PRTs.
While they found that that coordination and relationships at the
PRT/BCT and the Corps level were strong, they indicated that the
same cannot be said at the Division level, a matter that needs some
work.

-- Embassy Medical: The embassy's mental health officer led a lively
discussion to explore the characteristics of successful team
members, and those team members deemed not quite successful in the
PRT environment. This discussion dovetailed into expectation
management for perspective team members prior to ever arriving to
Iraq. He also focused on the impact the team leaders have on all
team members, and the need for the leaders to promote a positive
working atmosphere. The team leaders were tasked to further reflect
on this discussion once they returned back to the provinces, and to
provide their top three team member observations, positive and
negative, that might be useful for consideration by PRT recruiters.


-- Office of Hostage Affairs (OHA) and RSO: The OHA representative
provided a background on hostage taking in Iraq, and punctuated her
remarks by exhorting team leaders to maintain situational awareness
at all times and avoid potential hostage taking situations. OHA
offered to schedule on-site hostage awareness, prevention and
survival training to the team members at the convenience of the
respective PRTs. The Deputy RSO explained the RSO role with respect
to PRT security, and clarified the difference between State-provided
and military-provided movement security teams.

-- USAID: Given the significant presence of USAID programs in Iraq,
the Country Director for USAID provided a detailed program overview,
and explained how these programs might impact the work of the PRTs.
He also explained the negative impact that the current budget
situation could have on the future of USAID programs, indicating the
need to begin demobilization by the mid-year if funding is not made
available soon. The USAID piece was particularly valuable to the
conference due to misconceptions and lack of understanding of how
these programs work on the grassroots level, and how the lack of
direct access by PRT team leaders contributes to this lack of
clarity on programs in their respective provinces. The Director
explained that coordination is always a challenge in Iraq, and that
implementing partners often try to avoid direct USG contact for
their own personnel security reasons. OPA recognizes this unique
challenge, and the Director's presence at the conference was
necessary to address these issues directly with the team leaders.

-- MNF-I (GEN Petraeus): Following his formal presentation on the
positive security impact of the surge, GEN Petraeus expounded on the
larger issue of fundamental changes with respect to shaping the USG
future roles and contributions in Iraq. He viewed the interagency
as key to ensuring that policy be synchronized and complemented with
both pre-deployment and in-theater training. This would be
necessary to ensure that both State and military units, and the
PRTs, will be able to implement the desired changes. He challenged

BAGHDAD 00000857 003 OF 004


the PRT team leaders, as perhaps change agents, to develop ideas and
actions that could contribute to the next significant phase shift in
the USG activities in Iraq.

-- PRT Assessment and Long-Term Strategy: The OPA Strategy and Plans
Officer provided a brief history of the planning effort within OPA,
and brought the team leaders up-to-date on the assessments and
Maturity Model that are used for evaluating the progress of each
province. He explained how OPA uses a wide range of inputs from the
USG community in Iraq to obtain the best possible and grounded
assessment of each province, and to crystallize our sense of whether
or not the province is making progress within the specific objective
areas: Governance, Political Development, Political Reconciliation,
Economic Development, and Rule of Law. All these actions, in
coordination with the interagency work group process in Baghdad, are
essential to determine when conditions are met that can demonstrate
a province has reached a level of sustainable maturity, or better.
This process will serve as the basis for OPA to recommend
fundamental changes to the PRT system, signaling the time to begin
the transition to normalcy, with the goal to establishing a more
traditional bilateral relationship with the government of Iraq.

-- Transportation Issues: The Transportation Attache delivered a
very clear and fundamental message: transportation is the key
enabler in Iraq, with initial focus on the primary modal forms of
transportation such as ports, roads and bridges, aviation, and
railway. The second focus area is ministry capacity and their
ability for planning as well as budget execution. Iraq is a natural
land bridge, he stressed, and that railroads can play a crucial role
as regional leader for intermodal transportation.

-- Public Diplomacy and The Press: The PAS Counselor explained the
role of the Provincial Support Unit within PAS that is specifically
designed to provide cultural and press assistance to the teams.
This unit, in coordination with the PD officer assigned to several
PRTs, has access to a wide range of PD resources intended to carry
messages from Iraq to the wider US and international audience. He
highlighted specific capabilities, such as the International
Visitors program and the past US visit by a group of Anbari sheiks,
which are widely accessible and should be used by all PRTs.

-- UNOPS: Peter Sorensen, the Iraq Operations Center Director,
described how UNOPS, a self-financed entity within the UN, managed
over 26 projects worth USD 20 million during 2007. He stated that
the UNOPS presence in Iraq is entirely project driven, while
operating under a broad UN mandate to work in both conflict and
post-conflict environments. To promote the positive impact that
UNOPS could have on Iraq, Sorensen used a CERP-funded solid waste
project in Kirkuk as an example of how a project can succeed when
coordinated with the PRT and interwoven into the fabric of the
structure of the municipality. In this particular case, he noted,
cost savings due to quality project management has allowed the
project to extend beyond its planned duration.

-- Additional valuable briefings were provided by Management
(dedicated support to the PRTs), the Counterinsurgency Center in
Taji (now available for joint US/Iraqi training, and also includes
Iraqi sheikh and military/police active participation in the
course), MNF-I Strategic Effects (current priority information tasks
include Levels of National Employment, and a Literacy Campaign).

-------------------------------
CLOSING REMARKS BY OPA DIRECTOR
-------------------------------

7. At the end of the second day, the OPA Director closed the
conference by underscoring the importance of team leader and
military interactions, and the direct impact these interactions will
have on the success of the PRTs. She emphasized that 2008 is a
crucial period for the PRTs now that the entire system is fully
operational. As we are nearing the end of the first quarter of this
calendar year, the Director explained to the team leaders that the
immediate PRT planning efforts must focus on objectives and
activities for the next 6 to 9 month window. Through these combined
efforts, OPA should be in a solid position at the next Team Leader
Conference to address mid-year adjustments for the PRTs, and to
present the vision and framework for the rest of 2008 and beyond.

-------
COMMENT
-------

8. Two specific themes resounded throughout the conference: the
importance of interpersonal interactions and interagency
coordination (not only between State and military, but also among
participating agencies as well), and the eventual transformation of
the PRT system from its current form to one that will lead towards
the more traditional bilateral relationship of diplomacy and
technical support. This transformation will probably be gradual
albeit deliberate, and OPA recognizes the need to visualize how this
transformation could be implemented in order to be prepared for that

BAGHDAD 00000857 004 OF 004


eventuality. Given this reality, OPA also recognizes that the PRT
program can successfully arrive to that inevitable transition point
only through vigorous implementation of strategies and work plans in
concert with a transparent and thorough assessment process. Working
together, those actions should provide OPA and the interagency with
the sense of when the provinces have reached a sustainable level
where we can start the dialogue of pulling back. Returning to
present day activities, OPA does not wish to lose sight that we have
a challenging task at hand, and our success will depend upon support
from the interagency as well as the will of the Government of Iraq.

CROCKER

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