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Ted Burkhalter, the senior U.S. civilian member of the Provincial
Reconstruction Team based in Uruzgan, Afghanistan, from 2010 to
2011, received the National Intelligence Meritorious Unit Citation for
his work there with the 3rd Special Forces Group and Special Opera-
tions Task Force-Southeast. He has done two other Foreign Service
tours in Central Asia, among other assignments, and is now in long-
term language training in Yokohama.
Prior to joining the Foreign Service in 1998, Burkhalter was a
naval ofcer, and then worked as a logistics and security coordinator
for the International Rescue Committee’s operations in Bardera, So-
malia. Te views expressed herein are his own and do not necessarily
refect those of the U.S. government or the Department of State.
nication, coordination and
organizational management.
We owe it to ourselves
and our colleagues—and to
those whose sacrifce is eter-
nal—to carefully scrutinize
our experiences for lessons
to apply elsewhere. I hope
that this article, based on my
year as the senior U.S. civil-
ian member of the Provincial
Reconstruction Team based
in Uruzgan, contributes to
that process.
Guarding the
Back Door
Uruzgan is a mountain-
ous province, making it an
ideal hideaway and a back
door to both Kandahar and
Helmand. Mullah Omar
once lived in Uruzgan;
Hamid Karzai launched his
2001 ofensive from there;
and the Taliban used the
province as a major transit
route. In 2006, Lieutenant
General Karl Eikenberry, who at that time commanded the
International Security Assistance Force (and would later serve
as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan), described it as one of the
least secure provinces in the country.
In July 2010, U.S. and Australian conventional forces began a
coordinated efort to extend
the Afghan central govern-
ment’s authority beyond the
three small population cen-
ters it then controlled. But
training the Afghan police
and army was fraught with
challenges, and progress
was slow. So the joint U.S.-
Australian-Slovak Provincial
Reconstruction Team began
looking for ways to jump-
start the process.
One promising option
was to work with the newly
established, co-located Spe-
cial Operations Task Force-
Southeast. SOTF-SE, which
had replaced a smaller U.S.
Special Forces element, was
establishing the frst of the
Afghan Local Police detach-
Tis program, along with
the governance-oriented
Village Stability Operations,
would over the next year
completely turn the tables
on the Taliban in Uruzgan and neighboring Dai Kundi prov-
ince. Tough the ALP program has received mixed reviews in
the mainstream U.S. media, it was—in our part of Afghanistan,
at least—what General David Petraeus called “a game changer.”
During this period our small, civilian-led PRT began
coordinating more closely than ever with U.S. Special Forces.
Precedents for this existed: During the April 2010 anti-Taliban
uprising in Dai Kundi’s Gizab district (reported on the front
page of the
New York Times
), Uruzgan PRT political ofcer Russ
Comeau had accompanied a team of Green Berets seeking to
capitalize on improvements to set up the frst-ever Afghan local
police detachment.
Similarly, PRT political ofcer Dan Green had worked with
U.S. Special Forces in 2005 and 2006, providing invaluable
political reporting and tribal mapping. Now a reserve naval
ofcer on the Special Operations Task Force-Southeast, Green
has recounted his experiences in
Te Valley’s Edge: A Year with
the Pashtuns in the Heartland of the Taliban
(Potomac Books,
Our small, civilian-led PRT
began coordinating more
closely than ever with U.S.
Special Forces.
USDA adviser Stew Swanson demonstrates Afghanistan-appropriate
“modern” farming. A sustained efort began winning over skeptical
farmers. Swanson eschewed complicated machinery and anything
that required fuel or outside support.