Barack Obama pressed David Cameron to maintain defense spending above the NATO benchmark of 2 percent of gross domestic product, saying that Britain and the U.S. were the two pillars of the alliance.
According to a British government official who asked not to be identified, the president used an hour-long one-to-one meeting Sunday on the sidelines of the Group of Seven summit at Schloss Elmau, Germany, to seek an assurance that funding for the military won’t be cut below that level. Lawmakers in Cameron’s Conservative Party have so far failed to elicit such a pledge from the prime minister.
Cameron responded by listing Britain’s military activities around the world, according to the official. Earlier in the day, when asked by journalists what he would tell the president, Cameron had avoided making a commitment.
“I will say exactly the same as I’m saying now,” Cameron told reporters. “We’ve kept our 2 percent promise. We are one of the few countries to do it. We’re having a spending review in the autumn and we’ll announce the results at that time.”
Cameron also said the U.K. will deploy another 125 U.K. soldiers to Iraq to train local forces fighting Islamic State, as the G-7 discusses further action against the extremist group.
The trainers will teach Iraqis about dealing with improvised bombs and general logistics. The U.K. has committed around 900 troops to the fight against Islamic State, also known as ISIL, including those manning air missions flown from the Greek island of Crete. There are already 150 U.K. personnel training Iraqi forces.
“The biggest challenge we face in terms of the effect on Britain is fighting extremist Islamist terror, particularly in Iraq and Syria,” Cameron told reporters. “We’re already the second-largest contributor in terms of air strikes in Iraq and support for the Syrian opposition. But I’m announcing today that we’re increasing our training effort in Iraq.”
Obama said his meeting with Cameron would provide “an opportunity to discuss the effort against ISIL and the situation in Iraq and Syria and assess what’s working, what’s not, and how we can continue to make progress there.”
The U.K. deployment is a response to a request from Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who is also attending the G-7. Cameron is due to hold talks with him during the summit.
“Air power alone will not do the job” in Iraq, U.K. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told BBC Television Sunday.