x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

US vice president on surprise Iraq visit

US Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Baghdad on a surprise visit tonight, as American troops depart Iraq ahead of a year-end deadline.

BAGHDAD // US Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Baghdad on a surprise visit tonight, as American troops depart Iraq ahead of a year-end deadline.

Mr Biden was met at the airport by US ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey and General Lloyd Austin, the commander of United States Forces - Iraq (USF-I).

He then boarded a helicopter to the US embassy in Baghdad, a reporter travelling with him said.

Mr Biden's visit comes after a bloody seven days for Iraq, during which at least 61 people were killed in a wave of attacks.

The White House said that while in Iraq, "the vice president will co-chair a meeting of the US-Iraq Higher Coordinating Committee. He will also meet prime minister Nuri Al Maliki, President Jalal Talabani, [and] Speaker Osama Al-Nujaifi."

"The Vice President will also participate in, and give remarks at, an event to commemorate the sacrifices and accomplishments of US and Iraqi troops."

It is Mr Biden's eighth visit to Iraq since his election as vice president.

US President Barack Obama announced on October 21 that US troops would leave Iraq by the end of 2011, bringing to a close an almost nine-year war that has left thousands of US soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqis dead, and cost hundreds of billions of dollars.

About 13,800 US soldiers are still in the country, and seven US bases remain to be handed over.