Washington: British Prime Minister David
Cameron has arrived in Washington, to back President Barack Obama`s bid to cool "loose talk" over war with Iran and as Afghan war policy faces sharp scrutiny.
Cameron became the first foreign leader to join Obama on
Air Force One as the two leaders headed off to watch a college
basketball game in Ohio, in a gesture meant by the White House
to highlight a bond between the two men.
The meat of the visit will come Wednesday as Obama
welcomes Cameron to Oval Office talks, the two leaders hold a
press conference and enjoy the pageantry of a state dinner at
the White House.
Cameron`s arrival comes at a moment of extreme stress for
the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan, following a string of
incidents which culminated in a massacre of civilians on
Sunday by a renegade US soldier.
Both sides say they are committed to a timetable which
would see the last Western combat troops withdrawn from the
country at the end of 2014, but there is rising debate about
the pace of the drawdown.
Obama warned Monday against a "rush for the exits" in
Afghanistan, making the case that the soldier`s murderous
rampage which killed 16 civilians, mostly women and children,
should not throw US strategy off course.
British Ambassador to Washington Sir Peter Westmacott
signaled that Cameron would take a similar tack in his
meetings with Obama.
"I don`t have the impression from the responses from any
of the governments, from the authorities concerned, that these
terrible incidents knock the strategy of course," Westmacott
But behind the scenes, there is a growing impression that
Obama, and some of his Western allies, facing declining public
support for the war, are keen to promote a quicker drawdown
than military brass might want.
The New York Times reported yesterday the White House
could reduce the US footprint in Afghanistan by an additional
20,000 troops next year.
In a joint Washington Post article, the two leaders said
they would prepare the NATO summit in Chicago in May, which
will including "shifting to a support role" and ensuring
Afghanistan is never again a haven for Al-Qaeda.
Cameron`s trip comes in the week following a crucial
visit to Washington by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu dominated by the possibility that Israel could mount
a unilateral strike against Iran in the coming months.
"Both of our governments have made clear that we don`t
think that would be helpful," said Westmacott.