By Sam Youngman - 07/22/09 04:20 PM EDT
Obama, speaking with al-Maliki in the White House Rose Garden, warned that there will be more attacks on Iraqi and U.S. troops, and he said that al Qaeda and external forces will continue to try to disrupt the country's political reconciliation and reconstruction.
The president reaffirmed the agreement, struck by former President George W. Bush, to continue with the withdrawal of U.S. troops culminating in complete withdrawal by the end of 2011.
To that end, Obama said, "America stands ready to help the Iraqi government build their capacity to provide basic services and to promote the rule of law."
Al-Maliki noted the "sacrifices by our sons and daughters on both sides to confront al Qaeda members," and Obama applauded the prime minister's decision to visit Arlington National Cemetery.
"That hallowed ground is the final resting place for so many young Americans who have paid the ultimate price to help forge this hard-earned progress," Obama said. "They've set an example of selfless sacrifice that all of us must strive to meet, as do the Americans serving in Iraq today."
The president downplayed reports of tension between U.S. and Iraqi commanders as Iraqi security forces have stepped up their authority even as he conceded that there are, at times, "differences in strategy."
"I think that we have seen both improved capacity and greater confidence on the part of the Iraqi security forces," Obama said. "We're very pleased with that."
Al-Maliki said "it is normal that the responsibility [of Iraqi troops] is bigger and the role is bigger as a result of the security agreement, but also based on the agreement of the withdrawal."
Al-Maliki was also scheduled to meet with Vice President Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), among others, while visiting Washington.