Obama: US, UK Committed To Afghan Mission

Leaders of the United States and Britain outlined plans Wednesday to shift the NATO war effort in Afghanistan toward a back-seat advisory role while Afghan forces increasingly take the lead, but stressed that the two nations remain committed to the mission there.

President Barack Obama meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Monday, March, 5, 2012, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Leaders of the United States and Britain outlined plans Wednesday to shift the NATO war effort in Afghanistan toward a back-seat advisory role while Afghan forces increasingly take the lead, but stressed that the two nations remain committed to the mission there.

President Barack Obama gave his fullest endorsement yet for the mission shift, but he said the overall plan to gradually withdraw forces and hand over security in Afghanistan will stand.

Obama said he anticipates no "sudden, immediate changes to the plan we already have," for bringing forces home.

The United States and Britain have the largest fighting forces in Afghanistan, where the combat is in its 11th year. The U.S., Britain and other NATO nations have already agreed to keep forces in the country through 2014, when Afghan President Hamid Karzai will leave office.

"At the upcoming NATO summit in my hometown of Chicago, we'll determine the next phase of transition," Obama said following a private meeting at the White House with visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron. "This includes shifting to a support role next year in 2013 in advance of Afghans taking full responsibility for security in 2014. We're going to complete this mission and we're going to do it responsibly."

Obama acknowledged the drop in public support at home for the war. "People get weary," after long wars, the president said, but he also said he thinks most people in both the U.S. and Britain understand the reasons for continuing the fight.

Cameron, who joined Obama for a joint Rose Garden news conference, said security is better in Afghanistan and he praised the U.S. strategy to add more than 30,000 forces in a "surge" against the Taliban-led militants in 2009.

"The situation is considerably improved," Cameron said, and the goal of keeping Afghanistan from again becoming a terrorist haven is achievable by the end of 2014.

Following the summer fighting season, Obama said NATO allies would look at how to continue drawing down forces at a gradual pace.

The Obama-Cameron meeting came in advance of May's NATO summit in Chicago, where a decision on the timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan is expected to be confirmed.

The White House discussions follow the weekend killings of 16 Afghan civilians, allegedly by a lone U.S. soldier, and the deaths of six British troops last week in a roadside bomb blast -- the largest loss of life in a single incident for British forces in Afghanistan since 2006.

On Iran, Obama insisted there is still "time and space" for a diplomatic solution, in lieu of a military strike to set back Iran's progress toward a possible bomb, but said "the window for diplomacy is shrinking."

"We are determined to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon," Obama said, adding that he had sent a message "personally" to the Iranian leadership that it should re-enter international arms talks in good faith.

"Tehran must understand that it cannot escape or evade the choice before it. Meet your international obligations or face the consequences."

The White House lavished Cameron with all the pomp and pageantry of a state visit as the two allies aimed stressed their unity in dealing with hot spots like Iran, Syria and Afghanistan. At a welcoming ceremony, military bands and a large crowd were arrayed before Obama and Cameron, with Vice President Joe Biden and top administration officials including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton standing for a 19-gun salute and the national anthems of both nations.

Amid concerns in Britain that U.S. focus is drifting toward East Asia, Obama sought to reassure the British leader with a fancy White House dinner and a warm and personal show of support.

Despite the rapid rise of China and other emerging economic powers, Cameron said the U.S. and Britain remain one another's most significant international partners.

"Yes, the world is changing at a faster rate than ever before," he said. "But one thing remains unchanged: the ceaseless back and forth between our two nations of ideas, friendship, business and shared endeavor."

The serious talks follow a more relaxed day in which Obama and Cameron flew to Dayton, Ohio, to watch an NCAA tournament college basketball game between Mississippi Valley State and Western Kentucky -- a new experience for the British leader. Obama gave Cameron the royal treatment, inviting him to fly on Air Force One and enjoy a quintessential American tradition.

Cameron and Obama also will consider how to increase pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad, amid the yearlong uprising during which the U.N. estimates his regime has killed over 7,500 people. Britain's ambassador to the U.S., Peter Westmacott, said Obama and Cameron had a strong shared conclusion that military action is not the way to solve the crisis.

During his visit, Cameron also is expected to meet with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker -- but he won't hold talks with any of the Republican presidential candidates.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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  • by 40some on Mar 14, 2012 at 08:07 PM
    He's trying to keep a military presence in the mid east so he has the resources in place and a staging area to invade Syria and\or Iran.
  • by 2 Funny on Mar 14, 2012 at 07:09 PM
    All you so call know it all need to get a life how many vacation did any of the other white house family take? Oh wait they were never really ever at the white house that's why you can't account for their vacation they were always somewhere else. So why is it that now every move of the president is documented. Oh that's right cause he not one of the GOOD OH BOYS lol pls GAL Incase you don't know what it meals PLEASE GET A LIFE
  • by US Veteran Location: Washington on Mar 14, 2012 at 04:10 PM
    This report is such a crock of you know what. If the Taliban has been decimated, why are we discussing peace with them? Secondly, Nobama just took another free trip on us when he went to the NCAA tournament in Ohio and he took Cameron with him. Moochelle also said today she is going to the Olympics. Another free vacation for her, her girls, her mother, and her huge entourage. We need to get both of them out of OUR White House and send them back to Chicago. Hurry up November.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Mar 14, 2012 at 06:04 PM in reply to US Veteran
      Careful with that "our" word. Lavon and MC Jamal will be all over that trying to start something.
    • reply
      by To US Veteran on Mar 14, 2012 at 10:49 PM in reply to US Veteran
      Big words for someone who lives off the tax payers. Maybe you should have used the GI bill to read what Obama has done for veterans!
  • by Uncle Sam Location: U.S.A. on Mar 14, 2012 at 11:32 AM
    Remember back when Obama was going to get the troops out of Afghanistan,he was going to shut down Guantanamo Bay,Hope and Change,and all that.Remember people it's only been three and a half years,he was going to have a transparent administration,he was going to make things so much better,well I'm looking and I don't see any change,and I sure ain't got no hope.We need someone in the White House that is proud to be an American to help restore this great nation to what it should be.God bless America!
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Mar 14, 2012 at 02:09 PM in reply to Uncle Sam
      We also need somebody who will not bow to Saudi royalty.No American, big or small, should bow to anyone.
      • reply
        by Anonymous on Mar 14, 2012 at 04:16 PM in reply to
        That's the GW BUSH way, see how far that got us!
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Mar 14, 2012 at 03:46 PM in reply to Uncle Sam
      In a rare, bipartisan defeat for President Barack Obama, the Senate voted overwhelmingly to keep the prison at Guantanamo Bay open for the foreseeable future and forbid the transfer of any detainees to facilities in the United States. Democrats lined up with Republicans in the 90-6 vote that came on the heels of a similar move a week ago in the House, underscoring widespread apprehension among Obama's congressional allies over voters' strong feelings about bringing detainees to the U.S. from the prison in Cuba.
    • reply
      by To Uncle Sam on Mar 14, 2012 at 10:48 PM in reply to Uncle Sam
      We better get out soon so we'll have some troops for the GOP to send to Iran!

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