Press Briefing With New Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) Leaders, Foreign Service Officers John Matel and Paul WedderienWashington, DC
August 31, 2007
MR. MATEL: I'll start. I was born in Wisconsin; Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I have kind of an interesting background for Foreign Service. I think I do at least. I studied forestry -- and people always think it's foreign affairs, but it actually is forestry -- and history and MBA in Minnesota.
I've been in the Foreign Service now for -- since late 1984. Never in Iraq, but I have some experience with this a little bit. I was in Poland during the transition of communism to, you know, free market state. And although it's a much more friendly transition over there, it's -- a transition's a transition. It's always amazing the things that you don't -- you just take for granted in a developed country; a country with rule of law and things like that, you don't have in these places. And I expect to have even more of that in Iraq.
And I just thought this would be an interesting challenge. I'm -- to tell you the truth, I'm not sure why I did it. You know, I keep on -- you know, I just wanted to. Other people I know were going and I thought I should do my part too. And it looks like a really interesting job. I think we can do some good things there; that it's decentralizing, the country, a little bit, working with the local population.
I've always done local. I did Krakow in Poland, not Warsaw at first. I did Portalegre in Brazil, not Brasilia. So I'm a decentralized kind of guy, I guess. And I come from Wisconsin, which isn't exactly the center of the world -- although we think it was. (Laughter.) And -- but, you know, I'll answer your specific questions, but that's basically what I have.
MR. WEDDERIEN: Hi, I'm Paul Wedderien. I was born in Los Angeles, which, at least in our eyes, is something close to the center of the universe. Grew up in Orange County, California. Went to school in Berkeley and did some grad work at the University of Iowa.
My involvement in this issue stretches back several years. During 2002 to 2004, I was on the staff of the National Security Council. Before that and after that, I worked for the Near East Asia Bureau, so that I was involved in some early staffing of what was then the Iraq Reconstruction Management Office.
I'm going out there because I think this is an opportunity to do the most with what we have. Certainly, the best use to my talents is to work with the top foreign policy priority of this nation.
QUESTION: What do you see as your chief function? You're a PRT leader. What exactly -- someone explained to me that the PRTs are like mini posts, mini embassies. They have a political officer, they have an information officer --
MR. WEDDERIEN: Some do.
QUESTION: -- public diplomacy. Could you explain a little bit about what the PRTs are and what your role will be then as leaders?
MR. MATEL: Well, we haven't been there yet, as you know.
QUESTION: I know.
MR. MATEL: I mean, to me, it looks like a -- it's sort of like a business. I mean, that's -- what attracted me to it, from the challenge point of view, is exactly that. It was like you get to run different sorts of businesses. As I mentioned in my -- I studied forestry and I own a small florist in southern Virginia. And I get to build some roads, really small roads, and I get to build some dams, really small dams, and I thought that I could do some bigger things with that. It looks like you're actually going to do something; you know, that you're going to build some things.
And then the diplomacy aspect is very big. And I remember when I was at first -- when I was in Poland during the transition period, you just talked to people. You listened to what they say, you find out things. And just being there gives you ideas and gives them the feeling that you're listening to them, because you are. And so I see it as just a -- it's a management operation.
Having the PRT leader -- when we were doing -- we just finished an exercise in PRT leader planning and I was the PRT leader on the exercise. And I realized that I don't really do anything. I'm the manager; I hold it together, I coordinate. And I think that's the same thing we'll do there.
QUESTION: Do you have any idea what amounts of contracts are involved, these PRT -- I mean, is it millions of dollars worth?
MR. MATEL: It's millions of dollars.
MR. WEDDERIEN: Well --
MR. MATEL: At least.
MR. WEDDERIEN: Just to be clear about something, we're going out at Provincial Reconstruction Team leaders not to reconstruct, but to assist the Iraqis in reconstructing. They have the lead, we're the ones who are there to help. So when -- your question is -- is a good one and we do have access to direct U.S. Government money in a lot of ways, but that's just the small seed. What we're there to do is to assist the Iraqi people in doing that reconstruction.
And the fact that it's provincial is very important. As you know, our policy is that we're looking toward a federal Iraq, which means that there's a balance between what the national government can do and what the provincial and even regional -- the district governments do.
Our experience here in the United States is that there are a lot of things that are more appropriately done at the local level. And our job is to coordinate with them, spending Iraqi money, because there's a great deal of Iraqi reconstruction money -- billions, tens of billions of dollars that's available -- and also to provide a link back to the central planning in Baghdad so that we have ways of helping them bureaucratically, we have ways of offering our own expertise. And the direct projects that we do, mainly through the Agency for International Development, are important and are going to be enormously satisfying. But in sense, they're the least important thing of what we're being asked to do.
MR. MATEL: Yeah, the partnership is important. It's a -- well, it's always interesting to me when you go to a place that's changing from one sore* system to another are the little things that you don't have, the little things we take for granted; you know, the parts of the rule of law and the, you know, simple things that would -- if you go buy a piece of property in Virginia, you know what you're -- you know sort of what you're getting. You might get, you know, paid too much for it, too little. But in Iraq, you don't have these sorts of rules and laws and -- just, it's just very interesting.
QUESTION: You're going to Iraq at a time when there are a lot of questions of whether the U.S. should stay in Iraq. Are you concerned about that, that you'll be a couple of months into it and then the political pressure will just be so huge that you'll come back before you'll have time to complete the mission that would be given?
MR. MATEL: Well, that's not my business, really. But I mean, I don't think so. I mean, I'll go there and I'll stay as long as I can be useful. And I -- you know, I think all of us, we believe in what we're trying to do. Whether or not you can talk about the war that causes the other things about it are -- you know, that's a different subject. Everybody has different opinions about that. But we think, or at least I think that I can do some useful things there and, you know, try to represent my country and help the Iraqis help themselves. So you know, I don't know.
MR. WEDDERIEN: Let me add that I think in most of the responsible portions of the political spectrum, there isn't any talk about America being gone from Iraq entirely. There's a question of how much we should be there, particularly troop levels. We know -- in my case, I'm going out to a regiment that was assigned because of the surge, and we know the surge is not a permanent formation. So there are going to be changes. But I think that one way or another, to talk about an Iraq where there's no American presence at all, no American presence assisting with security, no American presence assisting with reconstruction is not a very likely scenario, particularly over the course of the next year.
MR. MARTEL: And we're not experts on this, I mean, so I can give you my opinion, but that and 25 cents won't even buy you coffee.
QUESTION: Do you think you're going to be able to get out very much? I mean, this -- you're going to be in Baghdad, right?
MR. WEDDERIEN: Yes.
QUESTION: Yeah. I mean, do you think that the security situation will allow you to get out a great deal or -- I mean --
MR. WEDDERIEN: If all we're doing is sitting in a military base, we're not being of much assistance. We have a commitment to get out. We know there are certain circumstances under which the threat is simply too high and we're not going to be able to go. But we have every expectation that we are going to be sitting down with the Iraqi people in their homes and their offices, dealing with their concerns.
QUESTION: Can you talk about the training for this? I mean, what kind of classes did you have? How much was it dominated by security issues?
MR. MATEL: Well, the training -- one thing that I really realized when I was in the training is that most of my training comes from just being a diplomat for a long time. And when we're talking about these things, you know, they had a (inaudible) things, they're the specifics. A lot of that we kind of just do naturally, even like the standing up when someone comes in a room, we know the kind of things that are just are natural to do. The training itself has been mostly on how to work through others. I think that's the way I'd put it. You know, not really -- we don't -- we're not -- we are the managers, we're not instigating things. So we learned about the various people we can turn to and the various organizations we can help -- we can use and how to help other things, how to be successful.
I think the thing about us is you met us Foreign Service type people, we read a lot. So we got these big stacks of books which we all will actually read. And you know, we learn a lot that way. The training has been, I think, very useful because it pointed us in the direction -- it gave me at least lots of places to look. If I had to stop right now, I wouldn't know very much. But I think that by the time I finish reading all the things and paying attention to these things I'll know more.
QUESTION: Can you tell us which -- what books are in your stack?
MR. MATEL: I don't -- I could give you -- I know what they look like, I mean, -- but look, look --
QUESTION: (Laughter.) But I mean, are you reading like Fiasco or are you reading --
MR. MATEL: No, no. No, I wasn't reading --
QUESTION: -- or history books?
MR. MATEL: Mostly history books. Well, the thing about this is that a lot of the things that are the -- the very current history. You know, I know that you guys are all news people, but, you know, the newspaper is not much use the day after it's printed. But the book about the history of the place or the culture of the place or the geography of the place is good for a long time. So one of the things that I'm reading is a biography of Gertrude Bell. I don't know if you know of her. And she was, you know, a British woman who was in Iraq when it was formed. And a lot of the stuff seems to still kind of apply today. Not the exact culture, but I mean, you know, like some of the things, the cultural sensitivities you have to go. Then I personally have the book on The Occupation of Iraq, you know, by Allawi. And I've got The Creation of Iraq. I've got, you know, Saddam's Iraq. You know, there's just a pile of things. I even have Anne Garrels' Naked in Baghdad. (Laughter.) I haven't started that yet, but --
QUESTION: I'll let anyone answer that as well, if you would.
MR. MATEL: Not on my reading list, but I did want to say a word about the training. We have a great change of the way we look at things and when we walk into the training. When we're overseas in the embassies customarily, the civilians have very much had the lead. Now, we are going to be embedded in military operations. And we have -- the military that is promoting civil society, we have the State Department that really needs to produce results and we have the Agency for International Development that's working on a much shorter timeframe than their unusual long -- long-range planning projects. So part of the advantage of the training was not only the presentation of the material which ranged from the Iraqi budget to actually talking to representatives from Iraq. What was also important was our reaction to that and our reaction to each other because this is an entirely different sort of team than we've ever been in before.
QUESTION: Is the training like just a couple weeks or --
MR. MATEL: It's just a couple weeks.
MR. WEDDERIEN: A week on the substantive training, about a week and a half on security.
QUESTION: And you speak Arabic and -- I imagine --
MR. MATEL: No, I don't. No.
QUESTION: -- you don't speak Arabic. You would speak Arabic, I think (inaudible) your bio.
MR. WEDDERIEN: I had very, very little Arabic back from when I was an undergraduate.
QUESTION: Don't you feel that that is a huge disadvantage going into this situation without having Arabic?
MR. WEDDERIEN: Of course it is.
MR. MATEL: Yeah, I think it is, too. I've always spoke the language of the countries where I've been. But I also have realized that sometimes -- well, I could speak Eastern Polish or Portuguese, things like that. But sometimes you still like to have a translator anyway. The translator is good to have for various reasons. So while I really wish I could speak Arabic. And I'll learn enough Arabic -- you know, we all will learn enough to say the usual things. We're good at that --
QUESTION: Like, "Don't shoot." "Is there coffee?"
MR. MATEL: No, no, not that. "Is there coffee?" "No, after you." I mean, the courtesy things. And the body language that goes with it. But you know, I wish I did speak Arabic. But it takes, you know, two years. You know, so -- (Laughter.)
QUESTION: You mention earlier some of the goals of the PRTs: governance, building dams, roads. The particular PRTs that you're going to, these embedded ones, what is the priority, or the priority goals?
MR. MATEL: We're actually not -- building dams, that's probably a bit too much for us. You know, I mean -- but we were told to expect is we want to spread out the footprint and do smaller projects, but more of them. Not something that just it's like they paint a target on the door, you know, saying that this is an American project, come and destroy it. But rather, lots of smaller things that, that people own and want. And that's the important part; that there's a, you know, if you build it, the Americans build it, it won't be there long, it won't work long. If the Iraqis build it, you know, we've -- people have been talking about their own experience with this, then the people want that they protect it. They -- you know, and it lasts a longer time.
QUESTION: Well, you're going to al-Assad Province, did you say?
MR. MATEL: Al-Anbar.
QUESTION: Oh, al-Anbar. Is that a particular -- is there more agricultural infrastructure you're going to be working on?
MR. MATEL: As I understand, it's mostly agriculture and it was very interesting. When I was looking at the projects that they were improving, I mean, some of the ones you'd expect, you know, the guy clearing out the irrigation, you know, planting date palms. The one I thought was very interesting is there were four grants to beekeepers. And you know, I thought, well, that's kind of cool. But, you know, you really need bees for a lot of things. They pollinate various kinds of plants, and if you don't have them, you can't grow some things, including some types of nut plants and things like that. So this is one of these essential links that you just wouldn't see normally, wouldn't pay attention to.
QUESTION: Is that when the chicken farmer is growing, the entrepreneur? Did you say --
MR. MATEL: He's not going to al-Anbar. He's going someplace near Baghdad. I forgot exactly where he's going, someplace in the south near Baghdad.
MR. WEDDERIEN: It's sort of a coincidence, but actually you're seeing the two ends of the spectrum. Both of us are going to predominantly Sunni areas. I think that people have been astounded and impressed with the progress in al-Anbar Province, and it is agricultural and it is tribal and it is rural and in a lot of ways it has links in with Saudi Arabia and Jordan that are stronger than its links from the center.
I'm going dead center to the middle of Baghdad to the most prosperous district of Baghdad; the former center of everything, but is also predominantly Sunni. And because of the way that things worked in earlier elections, it's important to be able to do outreach. And what I'm going to be -- the people I'm going to be talking to, they're trying to work on a chamber of commerce. They're trying to take themselves from being accustomed to prosperity and rebuild that prosperity, whereas in al-Anbar, in a lot of ways, it's building for the first time; so it's not reconstruction, it's construction.
I'm going to be dealing with an urban elite. And out in the provinces they'll be dealing with something entirely different.
QUESTION: These are very difficult jobs. Have you had a chance to talk to the current PRT leaders, to the ones that have already been out there, kind of get their perspective, find out what their problems, their pitfalls were?
MR. MATEL: I spoke to my predecessor. He, you know, told me a few things. And I was very lucky to talk to the -- some of the Marines who'd been out there because I'm embedded with -- well, it's the Second Marine Combat Regiment, and those are the Marines who've been out there, other places, and sometimes right there. And they were telling me about how it is.
And I wanted to say, not to advertise for the Marines, but I've been very impressed by them. You know, these young guys that are so smart and, you know, they're telling me things that took me ten years of diplomacy to learn. Just drink the tea (laughter), you know, even if you don't want it, drink it.
QUESTION: What kind of things do they teach you --
MR. MATEL: Well, they were --
QUESTION: -- or they were warning you about --
MR. MATEL: No, they were talking -- talking about the necessity of building the relationships; that when you first go someplace you get nothing, you know, you can drink tea. And if you don't do that, if you try to go and start, you know, doing something right away, you can't accomplish anything. And you have to make sure that you establish a trust because people don't trust you, you know, for good reason, I think. And so they -- you know, you have to show them that you're a consequent person. Don't promise things you can't do. We, Americans, are big on that. You know, yes, I'll rebuild your dam right there, and then you can't do it for whatever reason. And it's bad for you.
But I mean, that -- these are simple things that all of us know from our experience, but you sometimes forget when you're actually in a situation. And you have to remember, too, that, you know, it's the Iraqis' country and, you know, we'll be there for a while, we hope less time than -- but we -- when we leave, they'll be in charge of making sure it works. And if it's not something they want, you know, it's a -- it's not going to work.
So they -- but I was -- I was not -- well, not surprised because I know some of these guys before, but they were very sensitive of this. And they know some of the people. They're talking about the particular personalities involved, you know. And frankly, I don't remember. I wrote it down but I'll have to, you know -- well, you know what I mean. You get this kind of thing, you get all this information (inaudible). It's like, you know, the old taking a drink out of a fire hydrant thing, you know. But I have a lot of things to think about. And I think in al-Anbar I'll have a lot of time to think. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Journalists who go out and do these training -- these hostile training courses --
QUESTION: You mind if he answers --
QUESTION: Oh, yeah. No, okay.
QUESTION: I'm just curious if you've had a chance to speak to people who are in the area and what you're able to learn from them.
MR. WEDDERIEN: There's a distinction between PRTs and what we call, EPRTs, which is an Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team. And we had a team leader who was on vacation, on his own time, who spent pretty much this entire week with us, and we had a lot of time to talk about what's going on out there.
One of the points that he made, that I think is really strong, is on -- it's almost like in a lot of the places, you have car that has an engine and it has tires, and what's missing is the transfer of the power from the engine to the tires; that, in a lot of cases in Iraq -- and I think that this is going to be true particularly in my area of responsibility, that the resources there -- I mean, there is money available. There are educated people that can provide real human capital.
And his point was, to a large extent, what we're there to do is to help remove obstacles and figure out ways around them because there's a lot that can be done just with what's already available. And yet -- so in everything from the, wear cotton tee shirts under your armor, all the way to how to deal with tribal leaders, people who have come before us have a lot to pass on.
MR. MATEL: Cotton underwear was an important thing, I think.
QUESTION: Journalists who go do these, like, hostile training courses for a week or whatever, can you talk about that kind of training that you had?
MR. MATEL: I haven't taken it, but I don't know if you have.
MR. WEDDERIEN: I've taken it -- I've never taken quite as intensive a course as we've done, but all I can tell you is that when somebody puts you in a car and says, go hit that other car out of your way, that that's a singularly liberating experience. But there's a -- Iraq is a whole different sort of thing. We were used to low-level counter-surveillance activity and personal protection. We're going into a war zone and the kind of things that we're going to be asked to look for and look at, the kind of ways we're expected to conduct ourselves are different from anything we've ever done.
There are a number of people who are State people who were in our training who came from the military, had previous military experience, but neither of us do. And there is a lot to learn.
QUESTION: So how much of the two-week course was focused on those issues, security issues?
MR. WEDDERIEN: The course we just finished was the core policy procedures course. We have three days next week and then a week the week after that, and their -- the course -- part of the course is -- operates from the Shultz Center, from the National Foreign Affairs Training Center. We have part of our course that's with Diplomatic Security and then there's also a remote course in West Virginia called the Racetrack where we do some more hands-on activity.
MR. MATEL: And we have training in Iraq. I just got a letter about that very thing, that, you know, we've got that -- our assignment letters. And so we have, I think, seven days in Baghdad training. I don't know what training for, but that's -- you know, we have that, too. In-processing training.
QUESTION: When do you go out?
MR. MATEL: I go out on the 28th of September, I think. I mean, I'm -- you know, everything working as it should.
MR. WEDDERIEN: And I leave on the 16th. The other thing that's interesting is we have our assignments here, but one of the things we learned from our conference call in Baghdad is we may touch down in Baghdad and say, congratulations, you think you're doing this job, you're actually doing that job, and we're asked to be flexible. So what we're telling you is as much as we know now. But people do change from job to job. The situation on the ground changes on a weekly basis and we have to be prepared to respond to that.
MR. MATEL: And I also have to say -- in fact, I feel kind of embarrassed being an expert about something that I don't know much about (laughter), so maybe when I come back, I'll know more so.
QUESTION: Is this just kind of a lust for adventure that makes you want to do this? You said you weren't quite sure --
MR. MATEL: Well --
QUESTION: -- you know, why you wanted to do this, except you wanted to play an important role.
MR. MATEL: But I mean, it's -- I was -- we were talking a lot about this. And we live in this kind of ironic age where we, you know, we always believe we're doing things for these base reasons. Most of the people in the class, myself included, are doing it for mostly for patriotic or for responsibility reasons.
Then the second reason that I think is very important too is a lust for doing -- it's not adventure. I mean, I'm not an adventurous type guy, you know, but I do like to do interesting things. And so I would -- this appeals to me. I may retire from the Foreign Service when I come back. That's my current plan. And I want to go into agricultural enterprise. And so this would give me some experience doing things like that or -- you know, managing diverse operations.
So that's -- and you know, I have -- my wife was talking to her sister, who is not a supporter of the Iraq policy, and her sister is actually angry that I would go and do this. And my wife talked to her for about 15 or 20 minutes trying to explain my reasons. Finally, she said, "He's doing it for the money," and then she was happy.
But that's not the reason. I mean, it's good to have the cash, you know. (Laughter.)
MR. WEDDERIEN: You have to realize that Government workers in general and State Department in particular -- I mean, we're not -- we didn't choose this profession because we're adventurous or risk-taking. When I looked around that classroom and they -- three of the people at my table were north of 55 and had been doing agricultural all of their lives. It's not for the adventure, but it is for the mission.
And we're going to be presented with a situation where there is no limit to how much we can get done in terms of quantity. There are things we aren't -- we're going to want to get done that we're not going to be able to do. And at the end of the year, all the people who've done this before have been -- it didn't meet their ideals. They didn't meet where they wanted to go. But when they looked back over the year, they felt that they had been able to do more than they had been able to do at any other time in their professional life. So it's a kind of adventure, I suppose.
QUESTION: But is your main job, really, to go in there and try and improve the levels of trust with people in the local community, try and build up local government and try and get people up -- off their feet and get their communities going? Is that what --
MR. WEDDERIEN: I think trust within the community is really important. It's not that they have to trust me, except insofar as that's valuable for getting where we want to go.
MR. MATEL: We're managers and diplomats and -- I mean, as I said, I feel I never -- since I haven't been there, I'm telling you things that -- you know, maybe you were there, maybe you know more than I do. And so -- but when I was in southern Poland, right -- you know, we were kind of doing some of the same sort of things, trying to build, you know, civil society and help the Poles. And, you know, they did very much by themselves, of course, they did.
And that's -- it was diplomacy mixed with helping, with advice, with trying to connect people. And I see it as being similar to that under much more difficult conditions. I mean, you know, the Marines tell us, you know, about how you have to dress up with all this stuff and you don't wear cotton -- you wear cotton underwear in case you start on fire. You know, it's not because -- and so --
QUESTION: It's not because you're sweating?
MR. MATEL: Not because of sweating, although that's one of the reasons too. And that is kind of scary when they tell you that, you know, "Well, you don't want to wear cotton underwear." Well, then, "Why not?" -- or "You don't want to wear synthetic underwear," sorry. "So, why not?" "Well, in case there's a fire." (Laughter.) It never occurred to me before to choose my undergarments based on their flammability and -- but anyway, it's --
QUESTION: So it's the fact that (inaudible)?
MR. MATEL: But I think that it's -- it'll be an interesting thing to do and, you know, I mean -- so I'm just trying to tell you I -- if you ask me, why do they say -- you probably know I -- see, I go back and forth. It's a lot of complex reasons, but, you know, I don't really know the bottom line. You have to admit I'll --
QUESTION: Do you have much access to CERT* funds? Is that where you're going to get most of the money from; commanders and --
MR. MATEL: Well, we have our -- we're supposed to get our own funds to use like the CERT* funds. I mean, that's one of the big changes; that PRTs will have the ability to give money to, you know, groups, to projects.
MR. WEDDERIEN: And we have quick reaction plans as well.
MR. MATEL: Yeah.
MR. WEDDERIEN: The commander's funds are the commander's funds and we certainly help generate along with their civil society component recommendations. But in addition to that, there's a separate funds stream that came from State Department supplementals.
QUESTION: So part of the training is just to learn where to get the money from?
MR. MATEL: Yeah. Well, actually, they kind of gave us -- I guess the equivalent, they gave us a roadmap. And we haven't been to the place yet, but we now know where we're supposed to go to get those things. I mean, it's --
QUESTION: How long did the previous person before you last? I mean, you said you're replacing (inaudible)?
MR. MATEL: As I understand, he's been there nearly a year.
QUESTION: It's a year --
MR. MATEL: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- year-long --
QUESTION: -- posting?
MR. MATEL: A lot of people -- I mean, it's -- that's the other thing that occurs to me. Two of my colleagues had gone last year to PRTs -- or one went to PRT, one went just to Baghdad. And they both -- they both said it was hard, dusty, dangerous and stinky, you know, because there's a lot of -- well, you're on these bases and there's a lot of, you know, gas smell and things like that, you know. But they -- both also told me it was the most interesting thing they did in their lives. And so, you know, I guess you got to put up with some things.
QUESTION: Has the new -- there's studies about people returning with post-traumatic stress disorder. Is that stuff they were teaching you about ahead of time; where to seek help if you --
MR. MATEL: They talked about that a little bit. I mean, it scares us. You know, it scares me some. I don't know about -- maybe it doesn't scare you. Everything scares me, but -- (laughter) -- but, you know -- and I've warned my wife that I'll be, you know, I might come back a little, you know. It takes -- most people don't get full-blown stressed. They get -- you know, they aren't quite the -- you know, they have to adjust.
I did tell her, though, that when the -- I'm at least will be able to brag for a long time, so when she says it's hot outside, I'll say, heh, not like Baghdad, you know. And if it's kind of dusty and hot, I'll say, oh, this is nothing, you know. So she says I can't do that, but I say, no, it's necessary for my readjustment.
MR. WEDDERIEN: And at the end of the tour, there is a State Department -- at the end of the tour, State Department does have a program in place which probably includes assessment, but it certainly includes counseling.
MR. MATEL: Yeah, well, they do. They debrief everybody and --
QUESTION: I know it's kind of a superlative question, but if you had one thing at the end of your tour that you'd like to say, "I got done," or something like that, what would that be? What would be the one thing that you would like to personally accomplish while you're over there?
MR. MATEL: Are you talking macro things or micro things?
MR. MATEL: I mean, you know -- I mean, of course, in the vague kind of macro thing, I'd like to leave the place with, you know, more trust, more peaceful, you know, more democratic; the usual things you could think of. I mean, from the micro thing, if I could just plant myself a forest or date palm or something like that and have that growing when I left, I'd be kind of happy. So I just -- you know, I think we'll have to do a bunch of these little things, you know, and maybe altogether they add up to something bigger.
MR. WEDDERIEN: And I think for me, if the -- if we can look at the trend, even if we can't say, "I did this part," or "The brigade did that part," or "Central office did a third part," if there is a trend where things have gotten more peaceful and more prosperous -- it's funny, you look around -- you can look at faces. You would never know which face this applies to, but it's possible that somebody is alive because you were there. And you'll never know who that person is, but that's -- if we see enough of an improvement in our particular districts or in the overall situation and we contributed at all to it, that's the piece of satisfaction I think we'll take home.
MR. MATEL: Yeah, I mean, it's going to be hard to do it. I mean, it might not work, but, you know, you have to -- you know, I think we have to try.
QUESTION: Are you going to areas where there are a lot of -- I mean, in Baghdad, there are a lot of displaced people and the fabric of the city has changed completely; it's far more Shia than Sunni. But where you're going, are there a lot of displaced people and how are you --
MR. MATEL: Not as many as -- well, Anbar, from what we learned -- you know, my brief -- my brief expertness now that I had the five minutes of it, is that -- that there's quite a few people that moved to Anbar from other places.
And it's -- you know, but it's primarily rural, so there wasn't that much -- but what they did explain to us was very interesting and you probably know this already, but I didn't, that a lot of times when you're talking about displaced persons, you're not talking about people living in tent camps and things like that. Some people just moved and, you know, they move for reasons that are maybe not, you know, just because they're looking for -- well, some of these have moved for a better job, but I mean, some people are actually fairly well settled.
You know, it changes the way society is, but you know, they told us not to expect -- when you say displaced persons, don't expect to find the, you know, the Darfur-type camps that only like one percent of the people are living in these sorts of things. But Anbar has taken refugees or people in, you know, not -- you know, there's definitions for these things.
MR. WEDDERIEN: They -- and they do direct us. Looking at the displaced person, the very first question, according to our AID briefing, that you ask before you ask anything else, and it's only one of four questions, is, "What has been the change in your village over the last year?"
And what that focuses on are people coming in and people going out. When you have those kind of changes, you not only have the immediate needs to provide for -- and actually, unlike some areas of the world, the displaced people are not suffering at that level. But it's -- if you're looking about issues about employment and development, you have to look at what the population looks like now. So they -- the program itself has an emphasis that includes the displaced people.
QUESTION: You mentioned earlier there was a difference between what you call the EPRTs, the Embedded PRTs, the ones with the military. Did you understand that -- could you go into that difference a little bit more? Does the -- for those PRTs, does the military command have an override or something or --
MR. WEDDERIEN: Well, there is a memorandum of understanding that talks about what this -- the proper spheres are. But the fact is we're going to have a team of six to 12 that's embedded in a much larger organization. That also includes the civil society component, which in turn is also larger than the PRT.
The -- our focus -- the focus of the military is inevitably shorter term than what we have to do, even if what we're doing is shorter term than what we normally do. So it's very much a partnership that way. But we are much more dependent on the military for security, for movement than some of the EPRTs, but --
MR. MATEL: The ordinary --
MR. WEDDERIEN: Yeah, that -- the ordinary PRTs that have more of a capacity. We're -- the reason we're embedded is that's the quickest way to get out there. They have resources; they're going to put us out there.
QUESTION: Six to 12, did you say? Six to 12 civilians?
MR. MATEL: It -- yeah, well, it varies a little bit. I mean, the thing that they told -- well, that some people told me, it's sort of like you think of yourself like DNA because you're only the core of a much larger organization, you know, trying to work other things. But the military gives us our food and our, you know, a place to be. I guess we get to have a converted container or something like that. I don't have to worry about cleaning my bathroom because I don't have one. (Laughter.) So I look forward to that.
MODERATOR: Any other questions?
QUESTION: Come back and talk to us when you --
MR. MATEL: Well, we'll know more then, you know --
QUESTION: When you been there --
MR. WEDDERIEN: Come out and see us.
MODERATOR: Please come and see them and it's our hope that we will have more one-on-one conversations with them when they get there and --
QUESTION: So it's a year assignment and how many like, outs do you get? How many times will you see your wife?
MR. MATEL: Well, we -- there's two different kinds of things. You can get two R&Rs and three regional breaks. They drop you off in Amman and you can go where you want, or you can have three R&Rs. So we get home pretty often. I mean, I --
QUESTION: Within the year?
MR. MATEL: Yeah, within the year.
MR. MATEL: And so I'm -- that's what I'm looking forward to. I've never been to a lot of parts of the eastern Mediterranean, so I'm going to have my family come over and -- you know, I studied ancient history among other things, which is very useful. I know Iraq very well to the seventh century A.D. after that.
But I would like to, you know, look at some of these ancient parts of the eastern Med and things like that, so I look forward to that.
MR. WEDDERIEN: My family's staying in Tokyo and my older girls are in their junior and senior years of high school. There is no chance I'm pulling them out of Tokyo during that period. We'll -- I'll go see them twice or three times.
QUESTION: So that's where you're posted now, in Tokyo?
MR. WEDDERIEN: That's right.
QUESTION: That's a very big personal commitment.
QUESTION: Good luck.
MR. WEDDERIEN: Thank you very much.
MODERATOR: Yeah, thank you all for coming.