Obama, Gillard Consult on Afghanistan, Libya

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)

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