For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 14, 2001
President Commends Troops for Humanitarian Rescue
Remarks by the President
On Rescue of Humanitarian Aid Workers
the Bush Ranch
7:18 P.M. CST
THE PRESIDENT: Good evening. Today we've got incredibly good news. Our United States military rescued eight humanitarian workers who have been in prison in Afghanistan.
I'm really proud of our Armed Forces, and I'm also thankful for the folks in Afghanistan who helped with this rescue. There have been a lot of people praying for the eight -- eight innocent folks. Particularly interesting for me, since I'm here in Crawford and the two Americans were from Waco. And I know a lot of the Waco citizens have been in deep prayer that they be rescued, and their prayers were answered.
I'm thankful they're safe. I am pleased with the way our military has conducted its operations, and I am glad to report to the American people this chapter of the Afghan theater has ended in a very positive and constructive way.
Q Sir, did the rescuers encounter any resistance?
THE PRESIDENT: You're going to have to talk to the Secretary of Defense about that.
Q Were they rescued or turned over by the Taliban?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think Secretary Rumsfeld will be making a statement -- we're calling it a rescue. They have been helped by, I know the International Red Cross have been involved, and they were flown to safety by U.S. troops.
Q Where are they now?
THE PRESIDENT: In Pakistan.
Q Sir, is it your understanding that this was an operation where our forces had to go in and extricate them?
THE PRESIDENT: No, I don't think it was a mission of that -- it was set up, as I understand it. In other words, there was -- people on the ground were -- facilitated the ability of our troops to move in and put them on a chopper and bring them to safety.
I have been -- I had spent a lot of time worrying about all eight, particularly the two young ladies. I was worried that -- about the reports that perhaps the enemy would put them in a house and then, for whatever reason, would encourage that house to get bombed. I was worried for their safety. We had thought of different ways in which we could extricate them from the prison they were in. And there were some people on the ground that helped, including the International Red Cross, and our military responded. And it's great --
Q How soon will you be able to speak to them or see them, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: I'm not sure. The good news is they'll be home for Thanksgiving. And I would obviously -- if they come back to the States or are in a position where I can call, I'd love to call them, and most of all, tell their parents that I can imagine how they feel, how thrilled they are that their daughters are safe.
Q Other than the Red Cross, who else --
THE PRESIDENT: I'm not sure yet, Ron. I think we had -- Secretary Rumsfeld is going to brief here in a second.
Q Was it a handover to U.S. troops or --
THE PRESIDENT: I think it was a -- I don't think it was -- I think it was, as I understand it -- and again, the Secretary of Defense will be briefing, the Defense Department will be briefing -- that it was a facilitated rescue. In other words, there were people -- and I say "rescued" because it's a very unstable part of the world still, obviously, and you never know what the Taliban is going to do. They, first and foremost, detained these people against their will and imprisoned them. And I was deeply concerned for their safety. But the really incredibly positive news is that, thanks to help on the ground and thanks to our U.S. military, they're now safe in Pakistan.
I've got to go to dinner with my guests. I've got my guests. You'll have to talk to the Secretary of Defense.
Q Should the Taliban surrender now, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: It's up to the Taliban to make that decision. But we're not going to end our mission until we accomplish the mission. And the mission is al Qaeda and terrorists and terrorist training camps.
One of the things I said in front of Congress was that one of the conditions were that these humanitarian aid workers be turned over. That part of the mission is complete. We still want al Qaeda, and we want to make sure that Afghanistan is no longer a safe haven for terrorist activity. That has yet to be accomplished.
In the meantime, we're making substantial gains on the ground. But this is -- I told the American people, this could take a while. And I'm patient and I am steady. And our military is -- and our troops on the ground are on the hunt to accomplish the objective. And we will stay there until we do accomplish the objective.
Thank you all. I've got to go have dinner --
Q Are you going --
THE PRESIDENT: I've got my guests waiting --
Q Did the rain ruin the dinner?
THE PRESIDENT: No, it's perfect. Listen, any time it rains in Texas it is enhances the dinner. (Laughter.) Thank you all for bringing it.
END 7:23 P.M. CST