Press Briefing by Scott McClellan and Joe Hagin En Route AfghanistanAboard Air Force One
En Route Bagram Air Force Base, Afghanistan
March 1, 2006
Released by the White House Office of the Press Secretary
8:59 A.M. EST
MR. HADLEY: Terry, I told you if there was a schedule change, you'd be the first to know; you'd be second. We're going to go to Afghanistan.
MR. McCLELLAN: Now. That's what I came back here for. Joe is with me, but we're going to be stopping in Afghanistan. That is where we are headed right now. We will be landing at Bagram Air Force Base, and then when we get there, we will be going to Kabul, to the presidential palace, where the President and President Karzai will participate in a meeting. Following that, there's going to be an expanded meeting with delegations from both countries. It's a working lunch.
Then following that, the President will be going to the U.S. Embassy for the ceremonial ribbon cutting. The embassy has actually been up and running for a while, but this will be a ceremonial ribbon cutting to officially open the embassy there. And then following that, we will return back to Bagram Air Force Base, and the President will make remarks to U.S. and some coalition forces that are there at the base. And then we will get back in the plane and head to India, and continue with our schedule there.
QUESTION: What's the total time on the ground?
MR. McCLELLAN: About four hours, is that correct.
MR. HAGIN: I think it's four, but I will check.
MR. McCLELLAN: Joe will tell us in just a second. This is something that initially, and, Joe, correct me if I'm wrong, but Joe brought this to the President and Andy Card about eight weeks ago or so, the idea of going to Afghanistan while we were headed to India and Pakistan. And for about the last month, Joe and a number of other people have been quietly working to put all the details and logistics together for this trip.
Is there anything to add to that, Joe?
MR. HAGIN: No, that's about it.
QUESTION: Can we file this now?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, not until we land.
MR. HAGIN: Embargoed until we land.
QUESTION: What's the objective?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, this will be the President's first visit to Afghanistan. He's looking forward to it. And Afghanistan is a good friend and ally. And we have very strong relations with the government in Afghanistan, and the objective is to continue to build upon the strong relationship that we have with Afghanistan, and also to show our strong support for a young and emerging democracy.
QUESTION: The security risk, how serious --
MR. McCLELLAN: There are security precautions that are taken, and we're confident in the security precautions that have been taken. One of those was not informing you of the trip until now.
QUESTION: Big surprise.
MR. McCLELLAN: Did you figure out how many hours?
MR. HAGIN: It's about five hours.
MR. McCLELLAN: About five hours on the ground.
QUESTION: We're going to hear him speak only to the troops?
MR. McCLELLAN: Oh, I'm sorry, I forgot. After the working lunch with President Karzai and the delegations they will participate in a press availability. I expect it will be similar to other formats, where they'll each take a couple of questions.
QUESTION: How long is the flight? Do you know what time --
MR. McCLELLAN: It's about a seven hour flight there, from whenever we took off, about 8:45 p.m. or so.
MR. HAGIN: Land at 12:35 p.m. arrival, roughly.
MR. McCLELLAN: Afghanistan time.
QUESTION: -- know we're going there?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, this is the first announcement to the press corps. You all are the first. And as Steve said, he let you know first, as he promised.
QUESTION: Can we do a wire call just to -- on an embargoed basis?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, not until we land. As soon as we land you can call it in.
QUESTION: I'm not sure how my phone is going to work.
MR. HAGIN: It should work.
MR. McCLELLAN: It's embargoed until we touch down, but when we touch down, you're free to call it in.
MR. HAGIN: If your phones aren't working, we'll lend you a phone.
QUESTION: About four weeks --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Joe brought this to the President and Andy Card about eight weeks ago, roughly --
MR. HAGIN: I don't remember exactly, but it's been a while.
MR. McCLELLAN: Eight to 10 weeks ago, probably.
MR. HAGIN: It's about the time we agreed to do this trip to India and Pakistan. Once we blocked that in --
MR. McCLELLAN: And then for the last month, Joe has been working on it, along with a number of other people. I don't know if you want to add anything to that?
MR. HAGIN: Military office and Secret Service.
QUESTION: Have you been there?
MR. HAGIN: I went with Mrs. Bush a year ago.
QUESTION: Who else? She's been, and then Cheney's been, right? Who else has been?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Condi --
MR. HAGIN: I'm pretty sure Secretary Rice has been.
MR. McCLELLAN: We'll double check with her. And Secretary Rumsfeld, yes.
QUESTION: Has another American President been to Afghanistan?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'll have to check that.
MR. HAGIN: We'll have to do a little research on that.
QUESTION: Lunch press availability --
MR. McCLELLAN: We get there, we land at Bagram, and then we go to Kabul, presidential palace. The President and President Karzai will participate in a meeting. That will be followed by working lunch with the delegations. The first meeting is really just the two Presidents. And then a press availability after that. Following that, we'll -- the President will officially open the U.S. embassy there by participating in a ribbon cutting ceremony. And then we return back to Bagram, and the President will make some remarks to the troops there. I think it includes the coalition troops there, as well, in addition to the American forces. And, yes, I expect he'll visit with the troops one on one, shake some hands and everything while we're there, as well.
QUESTION: Technically, will the remarks at the news conference be piped in to the filing center in New Delhi, or anything like that?
MR. HAGIN: I'd be shocked, but I'll find out.
MR. McCLELLAN: All right, enjoy your breakfast.
MR. McCLELLAN: The President has been wanting to go to Afghanistan for some time. When we were looking at going to India and Pakistan, Joe came to him with the idea to do it on this trip.
MR. McCLELLAN: -- and this stop will be an opportunity to show our support for a good friend and emerging democracy. The United States stands firmly with the people of Afghanistan as they chart their own future.
MR. McCLELLAN: This is an opportunity to show our support for a good friend and ally and emerging democracy. We stand firmly with the people of Afghanistan as they work to chart their own future. It's also an opportunity for the President to personally thank our men and women in uniform who are serving and sacrificing in defense of freedom. So the President looks forward to going for both of those important objectives.
END 9:20 A.M. EST
Released on March 1, 2006