-The president's primary focus of the
trip is to meet with and thank US troops.
-He will also do a secure
videoteleconference with Afghan President Karzai from Bagram.
-Karzai remains in Kabul due to bad
weather (more on that below).
The trip was not reportable until this
point, based on WH ground rules.
***IMP NOTE-we will feed first video
asap but you should not expect that for about 30+ minutes at the earliest****
Bad weather in Kabul changed the
schedule-visit to Karzai's palace is not happening.
**OBAMA WILL REMAIN AT BAGRAM FOR THE
ENTIRE TIME HERE-THAT IS APPROX THREE HOURS ON THE GROUND**
REST OF SCHEDULE-no set
-SVTC w/Karzai (photo spray at
top-Petraeus, Lute, Eikenberry, Donilon will be there)-will take place at HQ of
101st Airborne Division
-closed mtg at hospital at Bagram. Obama
will meet with 8 patients-5 soldiers, 3 civilian contractors. He will award 4
-speech to troops-OPEN PRESS. We plan to
transmit this LIVE via DVIDS. We will get as much heads up on exact timing as
**We expect a briefing from Lute and
Donilon post-mtg with Karzai**
Obama was supposed to go to Kabul but
bad weather will keep him at Bagram. Ceiling (cloud cover) was less than
1000ft. Winds were 45mph and above with less than two miles visibility.
Conditions made helo travel "not an option," Gibbs said.
What Obama would have done: The
president was due to helo from Bagram to the US Embassy in Kabul, motorcade to
the presidential palace to meet Karzai. He was then going to motorcade back to
embassy, hold closed event there to thank civilian govt staffers and helo to
Bagram for rest of schedule.
DETAILS UP UNTIL NOW-all times
-9:59p: wheels up from Andrews. Pool was
already on plane, we did not see the president board. (See bottom of note for
timing of press movements if interested.)
-9:28a: off camera briefing by Gibbs and
Rhodes. Details below.
-XXXXa: wheels down at Bagram Air Base
-We will be using DVIDS to feed video.
ABC DC desk will coordinate w/all nets. This was set up by the WH and US
military, just like on the March trip here.
-The DVIDS is set up at Bagram. I'm told
there will be a live pic sent out as soon as we get there so the line can be
tested, ready to go.
Off-camera, WH Press Secretary Robert
Gibbs and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben
Rhodes (WH transcript to come)
-Rhodes said the trip planning began a
month ago and the principle reason for going was to spend time with US troops
during the holiday season, to thank them and to wish them happy holidays.
-Rhoades said this is a
"particularly tough time of the year" for men and women in the
military and their families. He said the president wanted to
"underscore" the sacrifice of servicemembers and their families.
-The bulk of the troops the president
will address come from the 101st Airborne Division, but there will be
representation from components of all services.
-The 101st AD is on its 4th combat
deployment, per Rhodes, and the 4th holiday season away from home. (two tours
in Iraq, 15-18mos in Afghanistan from 08-09, and this tour)
-Gen Petraeus will intro the president
at the troops event
-Rhodes and Gibbs emphasized that the
focus of the trip is the troops. Obama just met with Karzai in Lisbon less than
2 weeks ago and they talk regularly through SVTC.
-Rhoades said there is "no major
new piece" of news that the president is bringing to the mtg w/Karzai. The
president's trip to Afghanistan did not come up in their mtg in Lisbon, he said
. He is checking
on the exact timing of when Karzai was informed of the visit.
Regarding the mission in Afghanistan,
Rhodes said there were 3 milestones/goals met at the NATO summit in Lisbon 2
1. ISAF requirement for trainers was met
by new international commitments-"filled the trainers gap," he said.
2. Agreement on framework for transition
starting in early 2011 (NATO starts earlier in the year than US combat mission)
to begin transition to Afghan security forces. This will be conditions based
and completed by 2014.
3. NATO/Afghanistan Partnership
Declaration-even as transition security to Afghan forces, there is a longterm
commitment to security and a bilateral partnership.
DECEMBER AFGHAN REVIEW
Rhodes said the Afghanistan review by
the National Security Staff (led by Lute and Donilon) will be completed the
week before everyone leaves for the holidays (he didn't say exact day, but week
of Sunday Dec 12 is the ballpark timing)
Rhodes emphasized that this is not a
"policy review" in the sense of last year's Afghanistan review, but a
process where various components (pentagon, state dept, intel community) input
updates on conditions and how strategy is working. The review began in mid-Oct.
He said don't anticipate a major speech
from the president, but more like an update to the American people assessing
the current strategy and progress.
Rhodes said this trip was not meant as
an opportunity for the president to gain info on progress for that
review-"it's not about that...more about thanking the troops," he
WIKILEAKS-causing more headaches for
Rhodes said there have been public
discussions of challenges in Afghanistan before, this is not new. The Obama
Administration has "weathered those kinds of revelations before as it
relates to President Karzai and the Afghan government,," he said.
"We're all aware there are serious challenges in Afghanistan."
The goals: 1) "breaking the
Taliban's momentum"; 2) Build up Afghan security capability; 3) transition
to Afghan forces.
Gibbs said the challenges on security
and government side in Afghanistan is not new-he said the challenges are known,
the goals are known.
TICK TOCK OF PRESS MOVEMENTS
-7:45p: press arrive at Andrews,
escorted to parking lot and bus (bags/communication devices confiscated)
-8:40p Arrive at hangar where two AF1
jets are parked inside. Get bags, board plane, await wheels up.
Instead of giving remarks about the latest jobless numbers today, President Obama has surfaced in Afghanistan, his second trip there this year. Air Force One left secretly on Thursday night, as Mr. Obama's whereabouts were not announced until he had landed at Bagram air base in Afghanistan.What follows is the ...