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Iraq Reconstruction Teams Delayed at State Department

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Earlier this year, the State Department began soliciting personnel for provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs) for Iraq, a new concept designed to take diplomats out of Baghdad and into the provinces.

"We urgently need talented State Department Foreign Service and Civil Service volunteers to staff sixteen new teams being formed beginning now and in early 2006," a State Department cable told employees. "The PRTs will assist Iraq's provincial governments with developing a transparent and sustained capability to govern, promoting increased security and rule of law, promoting political and economic development, and providing the provincial administration necessary to meet the basic needs of the population." The cable called for team leaders, deputy team leaders and provincial assistance officers, who it said were needed as early as January.

"Our nation's highest foreign policy goal is helping Iraq become a democratic, stable, and prosperous country. A strong State Department presence is essential to achieving this goal," the cable said. "The best, most skilled members of the State Department family should consider serving in Iraq. In particular, we urge personnel with regional expertise, post conflict reconstruction experience and Arabic language capabilities to volunteer and to increase their chances to contribute significantly to our foreign policy goals."

The rollout of the PRTs has been slowed by a debate between the Pentagon and State over whether the military or private contractors should provide security. As of April 7, job applications had been received for only 12 of 35 positions, according to the State Department's internal bid list. And, of all applicants, only one is deemed qualified based on grade level and previous expertise, according to the bid list.

-- Glenn Kessler

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