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As part of her recent stopover in Mosul, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice helped inaugurate the first Provincial Reconstruction Team in Iraq, marking the first time the largely successful U.S. program has been undertaken outside of Afghanistan.

PRTs, as they’re known in the military, are a mix of political, military and engineering resources teamed together to facilitate rebuilding projects. There are currently around 20 such teams in Afghanistan; the Ninewa PRT, officially established on Veterans Day in Mosul, is the first in Iraq, officials said. U.S. officials plan to have 15 PRTs operating in Iraq by July. Two will begin work in November, officials said.

Rice, along with U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad and others, introduced the team at Forward Operating Base Courage.

The teams are “designed to lead the effort to build capability and sustainability within Iraq’s provincial governments, eventually allowing them to function independent of coalition assistance,” a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers release stated.

“This transition to Iraqi leadership will be achieved by developing a transparent and sustained capability to govern, increasing security and assuring rule of law, promoting political and economic development, and by providing provincial administration necessary to meet the basic needs of the population.”

The Corps of Engineers is the lead agency in the Iraq Reconstruction Management Office, or IRMO, which has $18 billion in reconstruction projects throughout the country. A recent report issued by a government auditor found that, while significant progress is being made, contracting problems, mismanagement and insurgent attacks are hampering the effort.

At a Sunday news conference in Baghdad’s Green Zone, new IRMO head Dan Speckhart told reporters that progress was being made.

“I recognize some people are frustrated perhaps that it’s not moving as fast as they would like but the basis is there,” Speckhart said, according to Reuters. “This is a big challenge. There’s been more than 30 years of decay and neglect that has run down the infrastructure tremendously.”

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