WASHINGTON, May 25, 2011 — The relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom is the lynchpin for security for both nations, President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron said in London today.
The two leaders conducted a news conference following meetings at No. 10 Downing Street — the home and offices of the British prime minister — and said they discussed some of the security concerns the two countries share.
The president and the prime minister discussed the progress in Afghanistan. The United Kingdom has the next largest military contingent in the country after the United States.
“We reaffirmed the importance of beginning the transition to Afghan lead for security this year and completing that transition by 2014,” Obama said. “We discussed the opportunity that exists for promoting reconciliation and a political settlement, which must be an Afghan-led process.”
Cameron agreed that 2011 is a vital year in Afghanistan. “We’ve broken the momentum of the insurgency, and even in the Taliban’s heartland — in Kandahar and central Helmand — they’re on the back foot,” he said. “Now is the moment to step up our efforts to reach a political settlement.”
Both men have stressed that military force cannot impose peace on Afghanistan. Obama re-emphasized that Afghan President Hamid Karzai will talk to anyone who is willing to end the violence, split with al-Qaida and accept the Afghan constitution.
Cameron and the president said they agree there is a long-term security interest in preventing extremists such as the Taliban from regaining power and again turning the nation into a terrorist haven.
Change is surging through North Africa and the Middle East. And the U.S. and U.K. support those who seek peaceful, democratic processes, the leaders said.
“We agree that the pursuit of self-determination must be driven by the peoples of the region and not imposed from the outside,” Obama said. “But we are both committed to doing everything that we can to support peoples who reach for democracy and leaders who implement democratic reform.”
Cameron addressed the notion that many people have that terrorism cannot be defeated.
“There are those who say that this terrorist threat is beyond our control, and we passionately believe that is wrong,” the prime minister said. “We can defeat al-Qaida, and the events of recent months give us an opportunity to turn the tide on their terror once and for all.”
Cameron congratulated the president on the May 1 operation that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. “This was not just a victory for justice, but a strike right at the heart of international terrorism,” he said.
The two leaders agreed that close cooperation with Pakistan is needed.
“People are asking about our relationship, so we need to be clear: Pakistan has suffered more from terrorism than any country in the world,” the prime minister said. “Their enemy is our enemy. So, far from walking away, we’ve got to work even more closely with them.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)