Biden makes surprise visit to Iraq ahead of US troop withdrawal

Vice President Biden made an unannounced trip to Baghdad on Tuesday to meet with Iraqi leaders and American troops as the deadline for a draw down of U.S. forces by the end of 2011 approaches.

Biden plans to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and President Jalal Talabani, along with other political leaders, during his two-day visit. The vice president also plans to give remarks at a joint event commemorating American and Iraqi troops.

Biden is hoping to negotiate with Iraqi officials over a continued American presence in the country after the 14,000 remaining troops are withdrawn at the end of the year. Additionally, the White House said Biden will seek diplomatic agreements on trade, energy and political organization while meeting with the Iraqi leaders.

This week’s meeting of the Higher Coordinating Committee in Baghdad will address and enhance our joint efforts on each of these important policy areas, the White House said in a news release.

Biden was met Tuesday evening at Baghdad International Airport by Gen. Lloyd Austin, the commanding general of U.S. forces in Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador James Jeffrey. The vice president traveled to the American embassy.

This is Biden’s eighth trip to Iraq since becoming vice president.