Barack Obama criticises David Cameron for Libya 's*** show'

US President speaks out during interview – but White House insists it 'deeply' values UK's contributions

(Image credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Barack Obama has criticised the role played by Britain and France in the liberation of Libya, accusing Prime Minister David Cameron of being "distracted" by domestic priorities as the North African country became a "mess".

In an interview with The Atlantic magazine, the US President said the plan for military intervention had been executed "as well as I could have expected", but accused his allies of losing interest.

"We got a UN mandate, we built a coalition, it cost us $1bn – which, when it comes to military operations, is very cheap. We averted large-scale civilian casualties; we prevented what almost surely would have been a prolonged and bloody civil conflict. And despite all that, Libya is a mess," he said.

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The Atlantic claims "mess" was Obama’s "diplomatic term" and that privately, he called Libya a "s*** show", in part because it had become a haven for Islamic State.

Five years after the removal of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, Libya remains in a state of political and social turmoil. The internationally recognised government no longer controls several parts of the country, including the capital Tripoli and the central port of Sirte, Gaddafi's birthplace and a former stronghold for regime loyalists.

Obama said there was "room for criticism" because he had "more faith in the Europeans, given Libya's proximity, being invested in the follow-up".

He also partly blamed the UK for the lack of intervention in Syria in 2013 following the use of chemical weapons against civilians.

"A major factor was the failure of Cameron to obtain the consent of his parliament," he said.

In response to the interview, a spokesman for the US National Security Council said Cameron had been "as close a partner as the President has had", adding: "We deeply value the UK's contributions on our shared national security and foreign policy objectives."

A spokesman for Cameron also said Britain was still "working hard" in Libya – although BBC North America editor Jon Sopel says "the unsolicited statement put out by the White House suggested Downing Street had reacted angrily to the article".

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