WASHINGTON, March 7, 2011 — President Barack Obama today thanked the Australian military and their families for the sacrifices they are making in Afghanistan.
Obama met with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard at the White House this morning, and the security situation in Afghanistan was among the topics they discussed.
The president noted that Australia is the largest non-NATO coalition member in Afghanistan, with more than 1,550 Australian servicemembers deployed there. The Australians are based in Regional Command-South in Uruzgun.
“We’ve had the opportunity to talk about the fight in Afghanistan,” Gillard said. “It is hard, but it’s something that I am very personally committed to, to seeing the mission done and to ensuring we play our part in training the Afghan National Army and bringing security to Afghanistan so that the Afghan people can lead their own security.”
Obama and Gillard discussed the transition process in Afghanistan as coalition forces turn more and more of the security mission over to Afghan security forces. They also discussed the situation in the Middle East.
“I think Prime Minister Gillard and I both share a very firm conviction that the violence that’s been taking place and perpetrated by the government in Libya is unacceptable,” Obama said. “Australia joined with us in imposing swift and firm sanctions, comprehensive sanctions against the Libyan government. We continue to monitor the violence there.”
Obama said that those supporting Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi will be held accountable for whatever violence occurs. He added that NATO is looking at a wide range of options, “including potential military options, in response to the violence that continues to take place inside of Libya.”
The United States has pledged another $15 million to humanitarian aid organizations that are already on the ground.
“We’ve been coordinating with the United Nations, which now has a number of personnel on the ground as well, to make sure that people are getting the help they need, and we are in a position to respond to any additional emergencies that may arise out of the situation there,” Obama said.
Australia and the United States stand for democracy, the president said.
“We stand for an observance of human rights, and … we send a very clear message to the Libyan people that we will stand with them in the face of unwarranted violence and the continuing suppression of democratic ideals that we’ve seen there,” Obama said.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)