Announcement

UK and US defence chiefs assess Afghanistan and Libya operations

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The UK Defence Secretary, Dr Liam Fox, and Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir David Richards, have met with their American counterparts in Washington to discuss current operations including Libya and Afghanistan.

Dr Fox and General Richards met with US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates and Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, to make an assessment of various operational missions and to discuss the possibility of exploiting the emerging opportunities on the ground.

After visiting the Pentagon, Dr Fox said:

I would first like to thank Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen for hosting General Richards and myself here at the Pentagon.

Today, as throughout much of our shared history, the UK and US stand shoulder to shoulder in Afghanistan, the Gulf, fighting piracy and, now, in Libya.

We had a wide range of discussions including the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, developments in the Middle East, and the evolving situation in Libya.

On Afghanistan, we discussed the way ahead for the transition process and the challenges ISAF and our Afghan partners will face heading into the summer months.

On the Middle East, we had very constructive discussions on the challenges presented by the current situation in the region. With Syria in particular we are both deeply concerned by the recent reports of security forces killing demonstrators. The Syrian government must start addressing the legitimate political demands of its people.

US Defence Secretary Robert M Gates (left) and UK Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox conduct a press conference on the steps of the Pentagon following defence talks
US Defence Secretary Robert M Gates (left) and UK Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox conduct a press conference on the steps of the Pentagon following defence talks [Picture: Cherie Cullen, US Department of Defense]

“On Libya, we had good discussions on how to better exploit emerging opportunities on the ground. I’m extremely grateful to the US for their recent contribution of armed Predator UAVs [Unmanned Aerial Vehicles] which will give NATO and our Arab allies greater capability to take out [Gaddafi] regime forces that continue to threaten the civilian population.

There is little doubt across the alliance that this key contribution has proven to be of immense value protecting civilians in Misurata and has helped Opposition forces to defend themselves against this brutal regime there. This is further strengthened by Italy’s recent announcement of additional air to ground attack capability.

We have seen significant progress made in the last 72 hours with Gaddafi’s forces losing their grip on Misurata and we have received reports of under-age soldiers and foreign mercenaries being captured — this underlines the regimes inability to rely on its own security forces. These are the tactics of an increasingly desperate and weak regime.