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Surprise stop long quietly planned: Bush touches down in Afghanistan

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Glossary for this briefing on President Bush's unscheduled stop in Afghanistan:

Embargo: Do not publish until a later time. The White House works on the honor system in these types of situations because the embargoed briefing was sent to a big e-mail list of reporters.
File: To contact a news outlet and report a story that can immediately go out, as in ``Can we file this now?''
Wire call: Releasing information just to the big wire services, as in `` Can we do a wire call just to -- on an embargoed basis?''
Availability: Usually a short,somewhat informal event where a newsmaker will take questions from reporters. Not a ``formal'' press conference. The news that can come out of an availability can be significant.


THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

Embargoed until landing March 1, 2006


PRESS BRIEFING

BY

SCOTT McCLELLAN AND JOE HAGIN

Aboard Air Force One

En Route Bagram Air Force Base, Afghanistan

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.

Q Now?

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.

Q 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.

Q Can we file this now?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, not until we land.

MR. HAGIN: Embargoed until we land.

Q 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.

Q 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.

Q 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.

Q 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.

Q 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.

Q -- 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.

Q 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.

Q 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.

Q 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.

Q Have you been there?

MR. HAGIN: I went with Mrs. Bush a year ago.

Q 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.

Q 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.

Q 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.


Q 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.

Q (Inaudible.)

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.

Q (Inaudible.)

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


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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on March 1, 2006 9:08 AM.

Gaggle: Aboard Air Force One en route to India and Pakistan UPDATE: SCHEDULE CHANGED--FIRST STOP AFGHANISTAN was the previous entry in this blog.

**NEW SUNDAY COMMENT POSTINGS**FRIDAY COMMENT POSTINGS***NEW WEDNESDAY UPDATE**Grassroots, Netroots vs the Dem establishment: Duckworth, Cegelis, Scott 6th CD district battle is the next entry in this blog.

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