The United States and Iraq are embarking on a new phase in their relationship as the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from the country will be completed at the end of this year, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said in Baghdad Wednesday.
“Our troops... are leaving Iraq and we are embarking on a new path together, a new phase in this relationship... between two sovereign nations,” Biden said at the opening of a meeting of the U.S.-Iraq Higher Coordinating Committee.
“That partnership includes a robust security relationship, based on what... you think that relationship should be,” he said at the presence of Iraqi Prime Minster Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad.
The vice president also said that the United States was keeping its promise to withdraw its troops by the end of the year.
“We kept our promise to withdraw from Iraq’s cities in 2009. We kept our promise to end our combat mission in the summer of 2010.”
Biden who has been U.S. President Barack Obama’s point man in overseeing the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from the country by the end of this year, arrived in Baghdad late Tuesday for his eighth visit as vice president, which comes after a bloody seven days in which at least 61 people were killed in a wave of attacks in Iraq.
His surprise visit to Iraq was to meet with Iraq’s leaders and to participate in an event recognizing the sacrifices and accomplishments of U.S. and Iraqi troops, a White House statement said.
Meanwhile, the U.S. troops’ withdrawal from Iraq opened a heated debate in the conflict-torn country, with some officials including the country’s prime minister showing their desire to see U.S. presence at least to train Iraqi troops. While other factions including that of the firebrand Iran-backed Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr warned if U.S. troops to stay, he and his followers will wage war against the troops.
Talks to train Iraqi troops came to a full stop, when Iraqi officials did not accept granting Americans immunity.
Baghdad will still host the largest American embassy in the world, with the full U.S. mission to Iraq including up to 16,000 people.
According to the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, James Jeffery, the direct budget to operate and assist on a broad variety of security and non-security issues to Iraq amounts to $6.5 billion.