According to the White House, Vice President Joe Biden has arrived in Iraq to participate in a Change of Command and Change of Mission Ceremony, fulfilling the commitment made by the President in his first month in office.
A White House press release says this is the Vice President’s sixth trip to Iraq since January 2009. The United States ends its combat mission in Iraq on August 31st, having drawn down to fewer than 50,000 troops from approximately 144,000 troops in January 2009. The remaining troops will advise and assist Iraq’s security forces, conduct partnered counter-terrorism operations, and protect U.S. civilians. In accordance with an agreement between the U.S. and Iraqi governments, all U.S. forces will leave Iraq by December 31, 2011.
President Obama will deliver a National Address on Iraq on August 31st. The Vice President’s visit at this juncture will reinforce the long-term U.S. commitment to Iraq. The Vice President will meet with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, Vice President Adil Abd al-Mahdi, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, leader of the Iraqiyya coalition Ayad Allawi, Chairman of the Islamic Supreme Council Ammar al-Hakim and other political leaders to discuss the latest developments in Iraq and to urge Iraqi leaders to conclude negotiations on the formation of a new government.