The situation in Afghanistan will likely be at the top of the agenda as U.S. President Barack Obama prepares to hold his first meeting at the White House on Tuesday with British Prime Minister David Cameron. Afghanistan and other issues expected to be discussed came up during a White House press briefing on the eve of the talks.
President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron last met at the recent G-8/G-20 summits in Canada, where the two men reaffirmed the special relationship between their two nations.
Tuesday's Oval Office meeting is expected to give them a chance to reinforce the importance of what President Obama has described as a strong working relationship, and to go deeper on issues such as Afghanistan.
Recent NATO deaths from insurgent attacks, including British and American soldiers fighting with the international force, have underscored the challenges facing the U.S.-led coalition as it presses Taliban forces.
President Obama said in Canada that the United States and Britain are convinced they have the right strategy to give the Afghan government sufficient time to build its security. Prime Minister Cameron spoke of a need to "get it right" in Afghanistan this year, but he also said he would like to see British troops leave within five years.
Asked whether Mr. Obama would attempt to dissuade Mr. Cameron on this issue, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs avoided a direct response and referred to the July 2011 date President Obama has set to begin drawing down U.S. forces.
Reporters also asked about remarks by Vice President Joe Biden in a television interview on Sunday. Mr. Biden told ABC's This Week program that U.S. troops will begin leaving in 2011, saying that the number could be as few as a couple of thousand troops or that it could be more.
Spokesman Gibbs responded this way when asked whether the vice president's remarks sent a signal that troops will be coming home regardless of conditions on the ground. "It sends the signal that those that are involved in getting the Afghan national security forces trained, that those that are involved in ensuring that we have the type of governance that is necessary to sustain areas that are cleared, have to get on with it," he said.
President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron are also expected to discuss other international issues, including sanctions to pressure Iran to halt uranium enrichment as well as Israel-Palestinian peace efforts and North Korea.
Global economic and financial issues are also expected be on the agenda. The talks occur a day before President Obama is scheduled to sign sweeping financial reform legislation.
The talks will also take place amid ongoing anger in the United States with the British energy company BP over the damage from the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Prime Minister Cameron is expected to make the case that although BP should be held to its commitments to compensate for the damage caused the oil spill, the company should remain strong and stable.
White House spokesman Gibbs said the issue of the release by Scotland of a former Libyan intelligence officer convicted in the 1988 Pan Am Flight 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland is also likely to come up in Tuesday's White House talks.
The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee has scheduled a July 29th hearing on the question of possible connections between BP and the release of the Lockerbie bomber, Abdel Baset al-Megrahi.
The British government says there is no evidence that BP had any connection with the Scottish decision to release al-Megrahi in exchange for facilitating a BP oil deal with Libya.