WASHINGTON – Citing the challenges in Afghanistan, President Barack Obama and visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron said Wednesday they remained committed to completing the mission successfully by turning over security responsibility to Afghan forces by the end of 2014. In a White House news conference after two hours of talks, the two leaders noted the difficulties faced by the U.S.-led NATO forces, including the alleged massacre Sunday of 16 Afghan civilians by a lone U.S. soldier.With calls increasing to speed the withdrawal from Afghanistan, Obama and Cameron made clear they intend to stick to the timetable set by NATO to complete the handover of security responsibility to Afghan security forces in less than three years. Obama provided more detail than he has previously, saying a summit of NATO leaders in May in Chicago will “determine the next phase of transition,” including “shifting to a support role next year in 2013 in advance of Afghans’ taking full responsibility for security in 2014.” Both Obama and Cameron referred to the difficulties of recent days, a clear reference to the civilian killings in Kandahar province that brought threats of retaliation from the Taliban and a demand for justice from President Hamid Karzai’s government. The statements made clear that some kind of foreign presence will continue after 2014.Wednesday’s talks also covered efforts to end the strife in Syria and prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Obama and Cameron presented a united front on both issues, with Obama warning Iran that “the window for solving this issue diplomatically is shrinking.”After the news conference, Cameron headed to a White House lunch with dignitaries, including Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and some members of Congress.
Afghan shootings: US soldier suspect flown to Kuwait
The US soldier accused of killing 16 civilians, including women and children, in Afghanistan on Sunday has been flown to Kuwait, US officials say. They say legal proceedings will now be conducted in another country. Afghan MPs have demanded that the man be tried in Afghanistan. Correspondents say that scenario is very unlikely.
Afghan man dead after crashing lorry, as Panetta’s plane landed
An Afghan man who crashed a lorry at an airfield as the US defence secretary’s plane was arriving has died of his injuries, officials say. Lt Gen Curtis Scaparrotti said the man apparently had tried to ram the stolen vehicle into a group of US Marines at the Camp Bastion in Helmand. Defence chief Leon Panetta was not at risk at any time, US officials said. Mr Panetta was in Helmand to address US troops, as fears mount that they could be the target of a backlash against foreign forces.