Biden Arrives in Iraq as Drawdown Enters Final Month
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 29, 2011 Vice President Joe Biden made an unannounced visit to Baghdad today to meet with Iraqi leaders and thank U.S. service members serving the final month of Operation New Dawn, a White House official announced.
Biden is slated to co-chair a meeting of the U.S.-Iraq Higher Coordinating Committee, the official said. He also is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, President Jalal Talabani, Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi and other political leaders.
The vice president also will offer remarks at an event to commemorate the sacrifices and accomplishments of U.S. and Iraqi troops.
The visit, Biden’s eighth as vice president, comes as U.S. forces are completing their drawdown in Iraq. All U.S. troops are slated to leave by Dec. 31, in accordance with the 2008 security agreement between the United States and Iraq.
President Barack Obama and Maliki reaffirmed this arrangement in October, recognizing the end of the U.S. mission in Iraq as the start of a new phase in the U.S.-Iraq relationship, the White House official said.
What that new long-term partnership will look like will be the subject of this week’s Higher Coordinating Committee meeting. Biden and Iraqi leaders are expected to discuss joint cooperation in politics and diplomacy, trade and
finance, energy, services, technology, the environment, transportation, law enforcement and the judiciary, and defense and security, the official said.
Army Brig. Gen. Bradley A. Becker, deputy commanding general for U.S. Division Center, said last week in Baghdad that he is confident Iraq’s security forces will be up to the challenge of maintaining security after U.S. forces depart.
Iraq’s security forces “have been in the lead since Operation New Dawn. … They have shown that they are capable,” he said during a Nov. 22 “DOD Live” bloggers roundtable.
Becker spoke of the positive changes he has witnessed in Iraq.
“As I look back on the last nearly nine years of what we’ve accomplished,” he said, “the one thing that really stands out -- at least for me -- is that we’ve given the Iraqi people opportunities that they didn’t have in the past: the opportunity to choose their own government, a developing economy that benefits all the Iraqi people and, most importantly, an opportunity for a better future.”