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 641.

    "Scottish nationalism is more reasonable and forward thinking"

    Mwahaahahaaa...ehehehehee....stop....mwawha...please....stop....ehahahaha....the hernia....mawhahah...for the love of God think of my hernia....ahahaha..

  • rate this

    Comment number 640.

    This country has been the lapdog to america since they won the second world war! The British people easily forget:that the yanks could and did come to the UK without visa's, while the Brits had to up until the late 70's. Even today,we Brits have to give endless info to the states before flying, while they dont have to give any. YES, we are there lapdogs. America says jump and our government jumps!

  • rate this

    Comment number 639.

    Good old Dave has scrapped countless British built aircraft and ships, and put thousands of British defence workers on the dole, to buy American replacements as fast as he can. Call me an old sceptic but his reward it would appear is a star spangled trip across the pond.
    I dread to think what he has sacrificed for his free flight on Air-force One, but I'm sure we will find out soon enough ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 638.

    Other posters have mentioned the Falklands. Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State is quietly more involved with Latin American countries demands for 'friendship' from the US while Chinese business interests work hand in glove to destroy rain forests.

    There is the rub, North American government will be appeasing Latin American oil and mining resources over British sovereignty of the Falklands.

  • rate this

    Comment number 637.

    The only country we can truly rely on is the USA. Our only true consistent ally in times of need.Europe has never been there for us, despite media attempts to have us believe otherwise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 636.

    The so called special relationship at one level is spooks, nukes and bases, Our spies depend on it, their rockets support our H bombs and they have lots of sovereign areas all over the place for supporting the first two as well as two large base on a British Territory. Elsewhere is NATO, And there is extradition (not for them, just for us), and banks, dud loans (remember Leman). What do we get?

  • rate this

    Comment number 635.

    Do we now see we can enter the USA without applying for an ESTA with this special relationship we now have with the USA ?.....would be nice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 634.

    Remember America was not always like this. She started this interference during the Barbary Wars and has continued on this path ever since:

  • Comment number 633.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 632.

    Britain and America have a commonality of language and values. Like Canada, Australia and New-Zealand we speak the same language and have similar values. That does not mean we are the same, but it does me we do have a relationship based on ease of understanding. You might not like everything your big brother does, but he's still your brother. Give me the dollar rather than the Euro any day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 631.

    "Cameron and Obama hail relations"

    "Toilet paper crisis in Trenton, New Jersey"


  • rate this

    Comment number 630.

    I see why we need to be in the USA's gang, but what does USA get from us? Apart from the satisfaction of pulling our strings and getting our lads killed in unnecessary wars, I don't think they are actually aware of us, a tiny and almost irrelevant country which has followed them into ruining education, privatising healthcare, respecting glamour above ability. So long a list, so few characters.

  • rate this

    Comment number 629.

    We should make sure we have a stronger bond with the US, and tell the EU bye bye.

  • rate this

    Comment number 628.

    Re 608

    Despite the sort of errors of which all nations are guilty the USA has been a force for good, offering a vision of democracy that inspires people of goodwill. Israel provides a home for the Jewish people who have been persecuted whenever they lived elsewhere. What would you have the Jews do, jump into the sea? Why are liberals such anti semites? I am proud we helped those nations to exist

  • rate this

    Comment number 627.

    I do not see how being an ally of the country which is responsible for burning Korans and massacring innocent Muslim children enhances UK security as Cameron claims.

  • rate this

    Comment number 626.

    By the way Chatty man- Britain did not give Israel- The UN did-
    Britain reneged on the Balfour treaty but gave 80% to the Hashem tribe from Saudi Arabia-(Jordan)
    And the only problem is the Arab countries who refuse to accept her existence.
    But of course this topic is about us and the USA- you brought up Israel!

  • rate this

    Comment number 625.

    The US presents the greatest danger to the security of the world (and has done for many years). My opinion is that we should move closer to our real allies and simply maintain standard diplomatic relations with the Yanks and stick the term "special relationship" in the dustbin of history.

  • rate this

    Comment number 624.

    For goodness sake wake up HYS posters - this is one gargantuan propaganda trip to give both Dodgy Dave and Obama a "leg-up" on their respective domestic polls. Both men have to face the possible humiliation of a troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and they both need to be singing from the same hymn sheet on Iran, Syria and the EU. "You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours".

  • rate this

    Comment number 623.

    Aha, so we are ahead on that one. No need for anyone to get a visa to come to the UK, just utter the word asylum."

    US, Canadian and many other citizens do not need visas to come to the UK on vacation or short business trips. Indeed, saying "asylum" is likely to curtail their intended business as their claims are investigated.

  • rate this

    Comment number 622.

    I think everyone is tired & fed up. Bank bailouts and all the other deeds taking place in the world of money & power. Can you blame us. A special relationship with the US is all fine & dandy but one with the citizens would be great & long overdue. I don't know about you but I feel a disconnect from the gov't. Enjoy the baseball game........


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