Cameron and Obama to agree Afghan combat role timetable

David Cameron and Barack Obama outside the White House in July 2010 Mr Cameron made his first official US visit as prime minister in July 2010

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Plans for UK and US forces to leave their lead combat role in Afghanistan next year, are expected to be agreed by David Cameron and Barack Obama during the UK PM's three day Washington visit.

President Obama has said there will be no "rush for the exits" in Afghanistan.

But the two leaders are expected to agree that Afghan forces should take over a lead combat role by mid-2013.

Tensions over Iran and the violence in Syria will also be high on the agenda. Mr Cameron arrives later on Tuesday.

Mr Cameron made his first official visit to the US as prime minister in July 2010. The latest meeting comes ahead of Nato and G8 summits.

'Heart and hand'

In a joint article for the Washington Post, the two leaders said the alliance between the UK and US was "a partnership of the heart, bound by the history, traditions and values we share".

"But what makes our relationship special - a unique and essential asset, for our nations and the world - is that we join hands across so many endeavours.

"Put simply, we count on each other and the world counts on our alliance."


Much has been made of the idea that British and US forces may hand over the lead combat role to Afghan forces by the middle of next year, some months earlier than expected.

But I have just spoken to a well-placed government source who said this may not involve any British troops coming home earlier as a result.

The source said that if the Afghan army and police take control earlier, it may be that they need more Nato troops in a supporting role than perhaps they may otherwise have had, because they would have had six months less training.

"It is reasonable to deduce they might need more hand-holding support after transition because it has been speeded up," the source said.

"I don't think it automatically translates to getting out earlier."

On Afghanistan, they said they would be discussing plans for "shifting to a support role in advance of Afghans taking full responsibility for security in 2014".

But Downing Street would not confirm a detailed timetable for the handover of combat duties to Afghan troops.

The visit comes at a tense time for Afghanistan after an American soldier shot dead 16 Afghan civilians. As an Afghan government delegation visited the site in Kandahar on Tuesday, they came under attack from militants.

Mr Obama and Mr Cameron said they were "proud of the progress our troops have made in dismantling al-Qaeda, breaking the Taliban's momentum and training Afghan forces", but "as recent days remind us, this remains a difficult mission".

British and US combat troops are expected to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014 and were expected to hand over responsibility for security to Afghan forces by the end of 2013.

But the BBC's political editor Nick Robinson says the moment at which Afghan troops take a "lead combat role" is being gradually speeded up.

Last month US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said he expected the transition process to be complete by mid to late 2013 - ahead of the timetable outlined by the UK Ministry of Defence last year. And Foreign Secretary William Hague told MPs last month: "We are firmly on track for the ANSF (Afghan National Security Forces) to have lead security responsibility by mid to late 2013."

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The prime minister and the president have been saying and can and will continue to say that there is no change to their plan. ”

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Asked if there was an acceleration of the transition, a Downing Street spokeswoman said on Tuesday there were "more discussions to be had" and there would be an "evolution" of the mission.

She said there had been no change in the UK's plans to pull out of Afghanistan by 2014 but was unable to say whether the transition to Afghan control would be completed by the middle of 2013 or the end of 2013.

Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy said: "The government appears to have an exit date but not yet an exit strategy.

"There is more to leaving Afghanistan than choosing a date. It's also about stabilising that country so the progress that's been made doesn't collapse once international forces leave."

The BBC asked aviation expert Chris Yates to describe what facilities David Cameron will find on board Air Force One.

Mr Cameron and President Obama also used the article to restate their condemnation of "the Syrian regime's horrific violence against innocent civilians".

On Iran and its growing tensions with Israel over its nuclear programme, they said they believed there was "time and space to pursue a diplomatic solution".

However, as the US and EU imposed sanctions and embargoes on Iran, they said: "The choice for Tehran will be sharpened - meet your international obligations or face the consequences."

The prime minister will also become the first foreign leader to be welcomed aboard the presidential plane, Air Force One, by President Obama.

They will fly together to Ohio - a crucial swing state in this year's presidential election - to watch a game of basketball.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 381.

    Most of the time the only help anyone gets from America is as a by-product of them helping themselves first.

    I think the phrase "there's no such thing as a free lunch" was coined specifically with them in mind.

  • rate this

    Comment number 380.

    Cameron would, he trying to turn uk into a mini usa especially the NHS & making certain parts of country into ghetto's,& treating THE LOW PAID,POOR,SICK & DISABLED like 2nd class citizens like rich in usa only thing this prat hasn't done like the usa take the banks to court I wonder why

  • rate this

    Comment number 379.

    Why do we need a special relationship with the US? In a world where all nations are supposed to be equal why do we still have these elitist western clubs? We are already close to the US, we don't need to pursue closer relations with them. We should work at relations with countries we aren't close to for the sake of peace and humanity. These clubs just give other countries a reason to be hostile.

  • rate this

    Comment number 378.

    I hope they are going to discuss Christopher Tappin's situation! He is the 65 year old British man who is currently in jail in Texas without having been convicted of any crime!! And no, he is not one of DC's constituents. If he was, he would still be at home!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 377.

    Why is it when I rate a post in favour of the US/UK partnership it doesn't register it or votes it negitively? Who's in favour of this partnership, the general public who pay the licence fee or the BBC??

  • rate this

    Comment number 376.

    It must be a special relationship ... looks like they're holding hands in your image

  • rate this

    Comment number 375.

    So, we don't want to be European, don't like the Americans, and don't like--well, pretty well everyone, it seems. We are not obliged to follow the US lead- Blair did so because it suited his own agenda, not because bush instructed him- any more than the US was obliged to help over Libya- though in fact they did. People should stop moaning & realize that friendship is usually preferable to emnity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 374.

    i am neither pro american or pro european what i am pro though is the British Commonwealth and if we would spend more time in this area with trade and aid then i am sure Britain will be better for it. Everything is in place so no extra expense on treaties and or quangos are needed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 373.

    For as long as our politicians still believe they can go around the world telling other countries how to behave, they'll need American firepower to back them up!

  • rate this

    Comment number 372.

    @339 "I'd rather be more American than more European. We need a little more of the US 'can do' attitude and a little less of the moaning and over reliance on the state that is so prevelant across Europe"

    Being an American who has lived in the UK for the past 12 years, I can say for certain that I'm never going back to the US - fascist, warmongering, ego-driven criminals run that country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 371.

    I do like USA. I do think there are strong ties between Britain and USA but is this relationship really stronger than that of Israel and USA?

    Britain does not want itself to be embroiled in more messy and damaging wars. If conflict is necessary it has to be swift.

    A war with Iran which Israel seems very keen on would inevitably drag USA into it. Does Britain want that? Certainly doesnt need it

  • rate this

    Comment number 370.

    You have a poor imagination, I have been to the USA on many occasions, it is for this reason and the time I served alongside US forces as an ally that gives a sound basis for my rejection of their methods.

  • rate this

    Comment number 369.

    Maybe Cameron can ask that Obama stops Wall Street financial terrorism & instead of protecting them actually prosecutes the financial, political and corporate criminals responsible for plunging the world into financial crisis causing such suffering around the world!. Maybe he can do something to restore peoples hope that freedom & justice have any meaning at all in America today?.

  • rate this

    Comment number 368.

    How quickly we forget that we would all be speaking German and all the Jews in Europe would have been exterminated if it wasn't for the Americans."

    The 20 million of so Russians that died and the Red Army that defeated Germany in the east had only minor roles, then? The Western Allies forced Germany to fight on more than 1 front and also ensured Stalin stopped at the Elbe.

  • rate this

    Comment number 367.

    Unbelievable comments being posted here.

    The USA is a vital ally and our closest friend.

    No wonder this country has fallen into such deep trouble over the past 15 years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 366.

    Be it Special, Unique or Essential its probably all of these things. The US and UK have a shared history, values. philosophical basis and outlook, certainly more so than with the EU. This overlaps are a critical to the relationship as it is the differences that make the bond truly special as each country brings something unique and they work together in a way that it is not possible with the EU!

  • rate this

    Comment number 365.

    Let's not get too hot under the collar.
    At the end of the day they are only politicians at play!
    But what an adverse effect they and other leaders usually have upon people and the world in which we all live.
    Talk is cheap - they do plenty of it.
    Your greatest danger is their unchained ego,
    their wants, their "needs" - and their lack of concern for those they lead, or mislead.

  • rate this

    Comment number 364.

    Where has our national pride gone? This story makes me ashamed to be British. Lets end this non existant 'special relationship' and stand on our own two feet on the world stage. Also end the disgusting extradition laws.

  • rate this

    Comment number 363.

    Mareliot: You haven't been following US policies much lately, because if you had, you'd realize that the US is becoming more like Canaduh and the UK with its citizens relying more and more on the state and less on their own (now lack of) resourcefulness and (even less of) ingenuity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 362.

    I get so tired of hearing about this 'special relationship' every time there is a meeting of the UK Prime Minister with the US President. It's a hackneyed old phrase which is fast becoming a boring old cliché. Can someone tell me what is so 'special' about this relationship anyway? We should be having a closer relationship with our European partners surely?


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