Making a real effort…

When an American president jokes that he's "chuffed to bits" about hosting a British prime minister you know that a real effort's being made.

Today at the White House David and Samantha Cameron were greeted not just by marching bands and a 19-gun salute, but also by Barack Obama telling thousands of guests on the South Lawn here in Washington that the relationship - call it special, call it essential, call it what you like - was the strongest it had ever been.

Its backbone, the president said, was the countries' two militaries. Whilst careful to insist there was no rush to the exit in Afghanistan, both leaders made clear that next year Afghan troops will start to take the lead combat role, allowing more British and American troops to come home.

David Cameron said: "Britain has fought alongside America every day since the start, we have 9,500 men and women still serving there. More than 400 have given their lives and today again we commemorate each and every one of them. But we will not give up on this mission because Afghanistan must never again be a safe haven for al Qaeda to launch attacks against us."

On Syria, the prime minister's frustration that more couldn't be done to remove President Assad was clear. Both leaders confirmed that they'd examined military options in Syria, but believed that the quickest solution would come from what the prime minister called "transition not revolution", what Barack Obama called "a soft not a hard landing".

The strongest words of all today, though, came on Iran, with a stark warning from the president.

Barack Obama said: "They should understand that because the international community has applied so many sanctions, because we have employed so many of the options that are available to us to persuade Iran to take a different course, that the window for solving this issue diplomatically is shrinking."

In other words, Israel might choose to take military action against Iran soon, raising awkward questions for the US and the UK.

Today little new may seem to have been announced, but the leaders of a relationship forged by war considered how to end one and whether it would be possible to avoid two more.