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U.S., U.K. Leaders Discuss China, Russia, Afghan Peace in Pentagon Meeting

March 5, 2020 | BY Jim Garamone , DOD News

United States and United Kingdom defense leaders discussed a range of issues including China, Russia, Afghanistan and more during a Pentagon meeting today.

Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper said that the U.S. shares a special relationship with the U.K. and that the realm can always count on the United States for support.

Two men shake hands.
Pentagon Handshake
Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper hosts a bilateral meeting with United Kingdom Defense Secretary Ben Wallace at the Pentagon, March 5, 2020.
Photo By: Marvin Lynchard, DOD
VIRIN: 200305-D-FW736-1014C

British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace stressed that special relationship and also stressed the role of NATO in both the U.S. and British defense strategies.

The special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom is the cornerstone of the international rules-based order put in place after World War 2. That order has served the world well. "It will remain equally important as we confront this era of great power competition," Esper said. "In this respect, we look forward to contributing to the U.K. integrated review as Britain — like the United States — realigns its military to the security challenges of the 21st century, particularly those posed by China."

The two also discussed Afghanistan. In the news conference following the meeting, Wallace was asked about an op-ed that ran in a British newspaper saying the agreement with the Taliban was rushed and puts the sacrifice of those who fought in Afghanistan in question. The sacrifices may have been in vain.

Teams from the U.S. and U.K. meet at the Pentagon.
Bilateral Meeting
Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper hosts a bilateral meeting with United Kingdom Defense Secretary Ben Wallace at the Pentagon, March 5, 2020.
Photo By: Marvin Lynchard, DOD
VIRIN: 200305-D-FW736-1022C

Wallace said the service members from all nations who served in Afghanistan did so to try and to get peace. "I think the biggest betrayal to the young men and women of all the allies who lost their lives would be to not try and achieve peace, for the investment in the work that's been done," he said. "That's what this process is trying to achieve."

Wallace said he was reassured by Esper that the deal with the Taliban is conditions-based.

The United States is grateful for the U.K.'s continued diplomatic, economic and military leadership on the global stage, Esper said. The nation is one of the few in NATO that exceeds the alliance's 2 percent of gross domestic product to defense goal.

Esper noted the U.K. has also recommitted to the defeat ISIS coalition, and its leadership of the international maritime security construct.

Two men walk up stairs.
Esper and Wallace
Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper hosts a bilateral meeting with United Kingdom Defense Secretary Ben Wallace at the Pentagon, March 5, 2020.
Photo By: Marvin Lynchard, DOD
VIRIN: 200305-D-FW736-1019C

"On Afghanistan, we will remain in close consultation as the peace process moves forward and the all-important intra-Afghan negotiations commence," Esper said. 

He reassured Wallace that the United States will retain [in Afghanistan] "the necessary capabilities to protect our service members and allies and support the Afghan security forces. We will also ensure that a drawdown of U.S. forces is aligned with commensurate reductions by the U.K. and our other partners."