Cablegate: Prt Team Leaders Conference: Transition Issues And

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1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Embassy Baghdad's Office of Provincial
Affairs (OPA) held its quarterly Team Leaders Conference of
Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) at Embassy Baghdad.
Embassy, NEA, and military officials briefed Team Leaders on
the state of play regarding the national election scheduled
for March 7, and held lengthy discussions about the roles of
the PRTs in the coming 18 months as the military continued
its planned troop drawdown. The Embassy emphasized that it
would be looking to the PRTs for reporting and analysis
during the pre- and post-electoral period, and briefed on the
Embassy,s observation efforts on and around Election Day. In
break-out and question-and-answer sections, OPA and the Team
Leaders discussed current political trends in the country as
well as USG priorities during this transition period,
including the 2010 elections, public diplomacy and plans for
five longer-term provincial posts. END SUMMARY.


2. (SBU) In his welcoming remarks, AMB Hill emphasized that
Iraq was on the verge of a transformation. With a raft of
oil tenders coming out, the country stands poised in the
coming years to overtake both Iran and Libya in terms of
daily production. The economy is gradually stabilizing, with
the GOI able to set forth and fund its own priorities, such
as health care and education. Meanwhile, security
improvements have forced terror cells to seek out softer and
softer targets. With the election fast approaching, however,
internal Iraqi politics remain dynamic, and it could take
months for a new government to be seated, AMB warned the Team
Leaders. For the Embassy, the next year will also be one of
transition as the military continues its draw-down, the PRTs
plan for their summer 2011 scale-back, and plans move forward
for the creation of enduring presence posts (EPPs). Italian
AMB Mellani joined AMB Hill in praising the work of the PRTs
and underscored the importance of the Italian-American
relationship in the ongoing process of helping Iraq.

3. (SBU) Political Counselor pointed to the upcoming election
and seating of a new government as the beginning of a year of
change for both the GOI and the U.S. mission, as U.S. forces
continue to draw down their presence. She provided an
overview of the pre-election period and the recent
de-Ba'athification crisis, saying the USG response to the
controversy emphasized the importance of an institutionalized
and transparent process over preference for any particular
outcome. She also thanked the PRTs for their contributions
to political reporting, emphasizing their importance as the
&eyes and ears8 of the Embassy on the ground in the various

4. (SBU) Assistant Chief of Mission for Assistance Transition
(ACM) identified improving budget execution, building
institutions, and increasing Iraq's appetite for free trade
as areas of focus for her office, and highlighted the key
role PRTs play in supporting the Embassy's goals at the
provincial level. Now that the PRTs are out of the "bricks
and mortar" business, it was important for the teams to focus
on more traditional missions, like supporting U.S. and
international business efforts in the provinces, she said.


5. (SBU) General Raymond Odierno, Commanding General of U.S.
Forces-Iraq (USF-I), laid out his vision of developing a wide
base of partnerships in order to make Iraq a long term
strategic partner and promote long-term stability in the
region. The first prong of this strategy is developing
Qregion. The first prong of this strategy is developing
security skills in the areas of border security, foreign
military sales, and training. The second category for
development is economic, specifically luring foreign
investment, developing a tourism industry, solidifying the
banking sector, creating jobs and developing the oil
industry. Finally, General Odierno emphasized the need for
Iraq to become an international player by developing and
improving diplomatic representation at embassies, the World
Trade Organization, and in the United Nations. General
Odierno cited the PRTs as crucial partners in helping Iraqis
develop these capabilities, and has included USF-I,s support
to PRTs in the Joint Campaign Plan (JCP).

6. (SBU) USF-I Deputy Commanding General-Operations (DCG)
provided an overview of the military's current operating
environment, citing Sunni disenfranchisement, Shi,a
opportunism (including Iranian meddling), and Arab-Kurd
tension as the greatest threats to stability. He assured the
team leaders that USF-I was committed to supporting all 16
PRTs though June 2011 and said training for incoming Advise
and Assist Brigades (AAB) was continuously refined to reflect

BAGHDAD 00000508 002 OF 003

the move to stability operations and U.S. civilian primacy.
DCG praised the civilian-military partnerships developed by
the PRTs, and encouraged the teams to continuing wielding
their considerable influence in support of mission goals.


7. (SBU) Political-Military Minister Counselor (PMMC) updated
Team Leaders on the current status of the JCP. The two-year
JCP, based in large part on the President,s Camp LeJeune
speech, brings together political, economic, rule of law and
security elements, determining how to achieve the goals
through 2011 so that the civilian presence that takes over
the process in 2012 is teed up for success. PMMC and Team
Leaders also addressed the necessary balance between the
Embassy,s role in maintaining cohesion of activities and
goals and the PRTs role in providing local context. That
said, it is essential that the process also retain the local
context that the PRT can provide.


8. (SBU) A panel discussion, focused on the March 7
parliamentary elections, highlighted the USG,s support for a
credible, legitimate, and Iraqi-led process. Representatives
from the Political Section, OPA, and USAID announced an
Embassy observation effort that will take into account the
Security Forces Agreement. The panelists emphasized, that
while international observation is valued a far more
important guarantor of the Iraqi elections process will be
the roughly 200,000 trained domestic observers who will
oversee the electoral process in every polling location on
Election Day. The PRTs will also play a vital reporting role
during the process, working their contacts for information
and ensuring the Embassy has a clear picture of the situation
country-wide. The panelists also announced a series of
in-depth election briefings for early February that would
update the PRTs on election-day modalities and observation
and reporting issues.


9. (SBU) In a session on public diplomacy, the Director of
USF-I Civil Affairs and the Embassy Regional Coordinator for
Public Affairs both praised the excellent coordination
between military and PRT elements. They emphasized the
importance of the Iraqi and western media,s message of
stability and growth to these differing audiences. Several
Team Leaders pointed out that the media gap would get filled
by other sources if Embassy, USF-I, and PRTs do not fill it.
Embassy Public Affairs described how the Embassy had been
increasing press outreach over the last several months, as
well as efforts to engage local and western media on the
positive impact PRTs are having throughout the country.

--------------------------------------------- ------

10. (SBU) Four panel discussions featured dialogue on:
Sunni-Shi,a cleavages, the Kurdish situation, oil and gas
development, and Iranian influence. The Kurdish session
provoked a spirited exchange on USG priorities in the region
and the prospects of a settlement. Team Leaders heading
northern PRTs expressed the desire for increased coordination
with the Embassy as policy on this issue continues to evolve.
In the oil and gas session, representatives from the
Economic Section discussed the hydrocarbons law, stressing
that there would be no further progress in this area until
after the seating of a new government.


11. (SBU) Deputy Management Counselor focused on support that
Q11. (SBU) Deputy Management Counselor focused on support that
the Embassy,s Management Section provides to the PRTs. She
described the system of Regional Management Officers (RMOs),
dedicated staff assigned to provide GSO support to the PRTs.
Team Leaders emphasized a desire for greater direct
interaction with RMOs, and encouraged them to visit their
teams in the field. Embassy Information Management Officer
announced the deployment of Blackberrys to each PRT in time
for the elections. He also outlined the program to upgrade
unclassified internet capacity of priority PRTs (the
so-called &VSAT8 upgrade) over the next three months.

12. (SBU) In a session on mission staffing, ACM Haslach,
Deputy Management Counselor, and representatives from USAID

BAGHDAD 00000508 003 OF 003

and OPA addressed contract renewals and other staffing
concerns. ACM Haslach stated that her office is working to
identify funding to retain USG interagency detailees from the
U.S.Department of Agriculture, and Department of Justice, as
well as engineers and USAID personnel for the PRTs until the
end of their mission in Summer 2011. She also stated that she
is requesting limited authority to continue hiring subject
matter experts, i.e. &3161s8, once the Iraq Transition
Assistance Office (ITAO) hiring authority expires in the

13. (SBU) For its part, USAID pledged to provide a
representative on each PRT through summer 2011. However,
USAID anticipates operating under a scheme of regional
platforms with teams stationed in north, south and central
regions of Iraq. USAID emphasized that this arrangement
would not affect the footprint of the implementing partners.


14. (SBU) As the military continues its withdrawal and the
PRTs prepare to close in 2011, the Embassy is moving forward
on plans to assess the locations for five future enduring
presence posts. The Management Section announced the
deployment of a 14-person EPP assessment team which would
travel to PRTs in all prospective EPP locations during the
month of February.


15. (SBU) Team Leaders' stressed the importance of keeping
PRTs adequately staffed. They also highlighted the value of
positive working relationships between themselves and OPA,
and between OPA and tbe Political Section. The Team Leaders
welcomed more Embassy input on policies at the provincial
level. In a separate session, QRF officers and OPA discussed
with PRTs how they could fund projects to support the March 7
national election.


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