Biden Arrives in Iraq as Drawdown Enters Final Month

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.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)