Obama and Cameron want Afghanistan 'progress'


The Afghanistan war must show progress in a "critical stage" this year, Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barack Obama have said.

The leaders' first face-to-face talks took place in Canada on the fringes of the G8 and G20 summits.

Afterwards Mr Obama said the countries' relationship was "built on a rock solid foundation" and would "get stronger".

Both men also said they were "aiming in the same direction" for long-term sustainable growth.

'Right strategy'

This is despite differences on economic policy, with Mr Obama expressing concern over cuts in Europe.

Mr Cameron had told journalists in Canada, where the G8 and G20 groups of industrialised nations have been meeting, that he wanted to see UK troops out of Afghanistan within five years.

Image caption,
World leaders are in Canada for the G8 and G20 summits

As their discussions concluded, the men said their respective nations had the right ideas in place in regards to the Afghanistan war.

Mr Obama said: "We are convinced we have the right strategy to provide the time and space for the Afghan government to build up capacity in the next several months and years."

But his comments came after the G8 group issued a call for Afghan security forces to begin to play a bigger role in controlling the country.

Mr Obama said operations were entering a "critical" period while Mr Cameron said: "Making progress this year, putting everything we have into getting it right this year is vitally important."

World cup

Mr Obama also lauded Mr Cameron for "being prepared to make difficult decisions on behalf of his vision for the country" and the men also smoothed over differences they had on the economy.

President Obama has warned G20 leaders not to withdraw economic stimulus packages too early.

But he said: "We have long-term debts that have to be dealt with.

"There are going to be differentiated responses between the two countries because of our different positions, but we are aiming at the same direction, which is long-term sustainable growth that enables people to work."

Mr Cameron echoed his words and said: "We are aiming at the same target, which is world growth and stability, but those countries with big deficits like ours have to take action in order to keep that level of confidence in the economy which is absolutely vital for growth."

The meeting between the two men took place as the USA began playing Ghana at the World Cup and the White House said Mr Obama managed to watch some of the game, which USA lost 2-1 in extra time.

The two men were reported to have made good on a bet that they struck before the England-USA game which ended in a draw. They had agreed that whoever backed the losing side would buy a beer for the other.

Mr Obama gave Mr Cameron a bottle of Goose Island 312 from his native Chicago, while Mr Cameron reciprocated with a bottle of Hobgoblin from the Wychwood brewery in his Oxfordshire constituency of Witney.

Mr Cameron also travelled the 215km (133 miles) from the G8 summit in Huntsville back to Toronto with Mr Obama in the US president's customised helicopter.

The prime minister joked: "He threatened to send me a bill. But I said times are very tight in the UK, so I'll have to take that as a free lift."

Meanwhile Mr Cameron and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev have signalled a thaw in relations between their two countries after meeting on the fringes of the G8 summit.

The prime minister said the two countries shared "lots of common ground" on economic issues, while President Medvedev said he looked forward to a "more productive and more intense" bilateral relationship.