Obama attacks David Cameron over 'mess' in Libya

Posted On: 
11th March 2016
President Obama has hit out at David Cameron’s handling of the post-conflict situation in Libya, accusing the Prime Minister of becoming “distracted” after the 2011 military intervention. 

The US leader said Libya was still in a “mess” as it deals with the aftermath of removing Colonel Gaddafi.

Speaking to The Atlantic magazine, President Obama said Mr Cameron had become “distracted by a range of other things”. 



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“What has been a habit over the last several decades in these circumstances is people pushing us to act but then showing an unwillingness to put any skin in the game," he said.

President Obama also warned Mr Cameron that Britain’s “special relationship” with the US was under threat if the Government did not commit to Nato's defence spending target.

He told the Prime Minister that the UK had to “pay its fair share” on defence.

Mr Cameron led calls for Western intervention in Libya in 2011.

But the intervention lead to a power vacuum and now the Libyan government in control of only a small portion of the country.

Mr Obama said: “There's room for criticism, because I had more faith in the Europeans, given Libya's proximity, being invested in the follow-up."

He also criticised former French leader Nicolas Sarkozy, who he said "wanted to trumpet the flights he was taking in the air campaign, despite the fact that we had wiped out all the air defences and essentially set up the entire infrastructure" for the intervention”.

Following the release of the interview, the White House has written to the BBC to say: "Prime Minister Cameron has been as close a partner as the president has had, and we deeply value the UK's contributions on our shared national security and foreign policy objectives which reflect our special and essential relationship.

"With respect to Libya, the president has long said that all of us - including the United States - could have done more in the aftermath of the Libyan intervention."

Downing Street said: "We agree that there are still many difficult challenges in Libya but, as the PM has said many times before, coming to the aid of innocent civilians who were being tortured and killed by their leader was the right thing to do."

It said the UK had "sought to support the people of Libya" and was still "working hard to support the UN-led process to establish a stable and inclusive government".