U.S.-U.K. Will Stick With Strategy in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON, March 14, 2012 — Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma and British Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron agreed the two nations will con­tin­ue to fol­low the strat­e­gy for Afghanistan that calls for all com­bat troops out of the coun­try by the end of 2014.

The two lead­ers spoke today dur­ing a Rose Gar­den news con­fer­ence fol­low­ing talks at the White House.

The Unit­ed States and Unit­ed King­dom are the two largest troop-con­tribut­ing nations for the NATO-led effort in Afghanistan. Both coun­tries have made tremen­dous sac­ri­fices in the nation, and there remains a tough row to hoe for the future.

“What’s unde­ni­able, though, and what we can nev­er for­get is that our forces are mak­ing very real progress dis­man­tling al-Qai­da, break­ing the Taliban’s momen­tum and train­ing Afghan forces so that they can take the lead and our troops can come home,” the pres­i­dent said.

Britain has fought along­side Amer­i­can troops right from the start, Cameron said.

“We have 9,500 men and women still serv­ing there,” he said. “More than 400 have giv­en their lives, and today again we com­mem­o­rate each and every one of them.”

Afghan nation­al secu­ri­ty forces already have respon­si­bil­i­ty for pro­tect­ing more than half of the nation’s pop­u­la­tion. “Today the prime min­is­ter and I reaf­firmed the tran­si­tion plan that we agreed to with our coali­tion part­ners in Lis­bon,” Oba­ma said.

The Unit­ed King­dom will not give up on Afghanistan, Cameron said. “We won’t build a per­fect Afghanistan, although let’s be clear: We are mak­ing some tan­gi­ble progress with more mar­kets open, more health cen­ters work­ing, more chil­dren going to school, more peo­ple able to achieve a basic stan­dard of liv­ing and secu­ri­ty,” the prime min­is­ter said. “But we can help ensure that Afghanistan is capa­ble of deliv­er­ing its own secu­ri­ty with­out the need for large num­bers of for­eign troops.”

The two men dis­cussed the next phase of tran­si­tion, which will be a focus of part of the NATO Sum­mit in Chica­go in May. “This includes shift­ing to a sup­port role next year in 2013 in advance of Afghans tak­ing full respon­si­bil­i­ty in 2014,” Oba­ma said. “We’re going to com­plete this mis­sion, and we’re going to do it respon­si­bly.”

Cameron said the coali­tion in Afghanistan is in the final phas­es of the mil­i­tary mis­sion. “That means com­plet­ing the train­ing of the Afghan forces so that they can take over the tasks of main­tain­ing secu­ri­ty them­selves,” he said. “We won’t be in a com­bat role after 2014. At the same time we will also back [Afghan] Pres­i­dent [Hamid] Karzai in work­ing towards an Afghan-led polit­i­cal set­tle­ment.”

The pres­i­dent stressed there will con­tin­ue to be chal­lenges, but he does not expect any sud­den changes in the coali­tion draw­down in Afghanistan. The Unit­ed States already has with­drawn 10,000 troops and will with­draw anoth­er 23,000 by the end of the sum­mer.

“There will be a robust coali­tion pres­ence inside of Afghanistan dur­ing this fight­ing sea­son to make sure that the Tal­iban under­stand that they’re not going to be able to regain momen­tum,” Oba­ma said.

After the fight­ing sea­son, coali­tion lead­ers will look to tran­si­tion in a way that grad­u­al­ly trans­fers respon­si­bil­i­ty for the whole coun­try to Afghan gov­ern­ment forces.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)