Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Baghdad Tuesday on an unannounced trip ahead of the withdrawal of the last 20,000 American troops by the end of the year.
Biden "will meet with Iraqi leaders and thank the troops a few weeks before the year-end deadline for the complete drawdown," the Wall Street Journal's Carol Lee wrote in the White House press pool report. Biden's trip -- high eighth to Iraq since becoming vice president--was unannounced ahead of time for security reasons.
In Baghdad, Biden will co-chair a meeting of the U.S.-Iraq Higher Coordinating Committee, and meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, President Jalal Talabani, and Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, a White House official said in a statement. Biden will also give remarks at an event to mark the "sacrifices and accomplishments" of American and Iraqi troops.
"Over nearly three years in office, the Administration has kept its promises on Iraq," the White House official continued. The United States has kept to a timetable negotiated between the United States and Iraq during the Bush administration to gradually withdraw American combat forces, beginning with the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraqi cities in 2009.
That process culminated with President Obama's October 21 announcement that the United States would withdraw the remaining American forces by the end of 2011 and "embark on a new phase in our relationship—a long-term strategic partnership," the official said.
Under that planned partnership, the United States and Iraq are "deepening our cooperation on politics and diplomacy; trade and finance; energy; services, technology, the environment, and transportation; law enforcement and the judiciary; and defense and security," the official said. "This week's meeting of the Higher Coordinating Committee in Baghdad will address and enhance our joint efforts on each of these important policy areas."
Biden will then travel on to Turkey and Greece. Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki will visit the White House in mid-December.
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