The UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron is currently in the USA on an official visit. Yesterday, he and US President Barack Obama gave a joint press conference in Washington following discussions the two leaders had held earlier.
In the press conference, Mr Cameron and Mr Obama spoke about plans for the next phases of transition in Afghanistan as well as further co-operation between the US and UK militaries.
On Afghanistan, Mr Cameron said:
Recent days have reminded us just how difficult our mission is and how high the cost of this war has been for Britain, for America and for Afghans themselves.
Britain has fought alongside America every day since the start. We have 9,500 men and women still serving there. More than 400 have given their lives and today, again, we commemorate each and every one of them.
This is in advance of Afghan forces taking full responsibility for security in 2014, and, as we have always said, we won’t be in a combat role after 2014.
Mr Obama said of Afghanistan:
The tragic events of recent days are a reminder that this continues to be a very difficult mission. Obviously, we both have lost a number of extraordinary young men and women in theatre.
What is undeniable though, and what we can never forget, is that our forces are making very real progress, dismantling Al-Qaeda, breaking the Taliban’s momentum, and training Afghan forces so that they can take the lead and our troops can come home.
That transition is already underway and about half of all Afghans currently live in areas where Afghan security forces are taking responsibility.
Today, the Prime Minister and I reaffirmed the transition plan that we agreed to with our coalition partners in Lisbon. Specifically, at the upcoming NATO summit in my home town of Chicago, we’ll determine the next phase of transition. This includes shifting to a support role next year, in 2013, in advance of Afghans taking full responsibility for security in 2014.
We are going to complete this mission and we are going to do it responsibly, and NATO will maintain an enduring commitment so that Afghanistan never again becomes a haven for Al-Qaeda to attack our countries.
On closer co-operation between the UK and US Armed Forces, Mr Obama said:
I am very pleased that we are bringing our two militaries - the backbone of our alliance - even closer. As I told David, I can announce that next month we intend to start implementing our long-awaited defence trade treaty with the UK.
This will put advanced technologies in the hands of our troops and it will mean more jobs for workers in both our countries, and we are moving ahead with our joint initiative to care for our men and women in uniform.
For decades, our troops have stood together on the battlefield. Now we are working together for them when they come home, with new partnerships to help our wounded warriors recover, assist our veterans’ transition back to civilian life, and to support our remarkable military families.
You can also find there a factsheet on US and UK defence co-operation and one on the US/UK Task Force which is supporting Armed Forces personnel, veterans and their families in both countries.