Obama to Afghanistan

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 White House Pool Report from Jake Tapper of ABC News:
-

ABC is travel pool-Jake Tapper is the

correspondent.

 

Below is info on SCHEDULED EVENTS, BAD

WEATHER CALL, DETAILS UP UNTIL THIS POINT, VIDEO FEEDS and a readout of an

OFF-CAMERA BRIEFING by Gibbs and Rhodes.

 

-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

times:

-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

Purple Hearts.

-speech to troops-OPEN PRESS. We plan to

transmit this LIVE via DVIDS. We will get as much heads up on exact timing as

possible.

 

**We expect a briefing from Lute and

Donilon post-mtg with Karzai**

 

WEATHER ISSUES

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

ET

-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

 

VIDEO FEEDS:

-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.

 

BRIEFING:

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

weeks ago.

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

said.

 

WIKILEAKS-causing more headaches for

trip?

 

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 : (all

times ET)

-7:45p: press arrive at Andrews,

escorted to parking lot and bus (bags/communication devices confiscated)

-8:30p bus rolls

-8:40p Arrive at hangar where two AF1

jets are parked inside. Get bags, board plane, await wheels up.

 

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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 ...