By J. Taylor Rushing - 07/04/10 03:14 PM EDT
Vice President Joe Biden on Sunday said the U.S. goal for withdrawing
its forces from Iraq remains on schedule and that the country is
Speaking at a naturalization ceremony for U.S. service members in Baghdad, the vice president said by the end of August, U.S. troops will have been reduced from 140,000 troops in January 2009 to 50,000.
"Last year at this ceremony, I made what I was criticized for saying a bit of a bold statement. But I was confident then as I am
now about other things that are going to happen," Biden said. "I said last August of this year that we will have achieved two
goals. We will have helped Iraq’s leaders set the conditions for a sovereign, stable and self-reliant nation for future generations of Iraqis within a year, and we will have ended our combat mission here after more than seven years.
"And I’m proud to report that because of
you, and tens of thousands of our sons and daughters, including our
son, we’ve made good on that promise."
Biden is in Iraq on an unannounced trip, which he called "among the biggest kicks I've gotten since I've been vice president." He addressed the military in a palace that formerly belonged to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, finding "delicious irony" in the occasion.
"This nation, once embroiled in sectarian strife and violence is moving toward a lasting security and prosperity with a government that represents the interest of every member of the community in Iraq, because until they get that straight -- and they’re getting it straight -- there’s no real shot they can become what they’re capable of," he said. "And the United States is committed, we’re committed to cement that relationship through economic, political and diplomatic cooperation."
Biden has been to Iraq so often that he has lost count — the vice president couldn't recall on Sunday the exact number.
"Not long ago, Iraq was a country on the brink of civil war. This is my 15th, 16th, 17th trip in. And every time I come -- this is four
times or five times since I’ve been Vice President -- every time I come, because of an awful lot of brave Iraqis who gave their lives and tens of thousands of Americans who risked and/or gave their lives, it gets better, every single time I’m here," he said.