Middle East

Joe Biden visits Iraq as troops leave

Joe Biden with US Ambassador James Jeffrey (l) and General Lloyd Austin 29 November 2011
Mr Biden's surprise visit was scheduled in advance of other international travel

US Vice-President Joe Biden has arrived in Baghdad as US troops prepare to leave Iraq by the end of 2011.

Mr Biden will meet with Iraqi leaders and take part in a ceremony to remember thousands of American and Iraqi troops who lost their lives since 2003.

The past week has seen an upsurge in violence in Iraq in which more than 60 people have died.

President Barack Obama announced on 21 October that US troops would leave Iraq by the end of 2011, ending the war.

Withdrawing troops from Iraq was one of President Obama's key election pledges.

Small taskforce

On Monday, at least 19 people were killed by a suicide bomber running a explosives-laden car into the gate of a prison. That attack followed a spate of earlier bombings.

Correspondents say US and Iraqi officials are concerned about insurgent attacks during the transition period.

Around 14,000 US troops are currently in the country, down from 170,000 at the time of the "surge" in 2007.

After 31 December fewer than 200 military personnel will remain in Iraq, as part of a US State Department taskforce.

"It's good to be back for this purpose," Mr Biden said after his arrival, according to ABC News.

The surprise visit is the eighth time Mr Biden has visited Iraq since his election as vice president, as Mr Obama asked him to serve as the day-to-day manager of the war effort.

His trip will be followed by a visit to Turkey and Greece.

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