BAGHDAD- U.S. Vice President Joe Biden met Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in an unannounced visit to Baghdad on Thursday to show support for the government. as it builds on wins against Islamic State amid the distractions of a political crisis.
It is the first visit for Biden, the White House’s point person on Iraq, since U.S. forces withdrew in 2011 following a nine-year occupation. He is the third and highest-level U.S. official to visit Iraq this month.
The vice president has close relationships with Iraqi leaders and speaks with them about every 10 days, a senior administration official said.
Still, "there’s no substitute for being able to sit down face-to-face," a U.S. official said.
Biden’s first meeting was with Abadi to discuss "developments in the political, security and economic situations," state television said. The White House has not released details of his schedule in Iraq for security reasons.
The trip serves to counter a "misperception in the region" that Iran has undue influence in the nation, a senior administration official said.
Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Ash Carter visited Baghdad earlier this month to show their support.
The United States has redeployed several thousand troops to Iraq to help with the Islamic State battle.
The White House is concerned that not enough is being spent to rebuild parts of Iraq devastated by the fight, a deficit made worse by low oil prices, Iraq’s main revenue source.
The United Nations is urgently seeking $400 million from Washington and its allies for reconstruction, while Obama asked Gulf Arab leaders to assist during a visit to Riyadh last week.
He also discussed the issue with European leaders in London and Hanover, Germany, and told reporters Iraqi reconstruction would be a topic for the G7 meeting in Japan next month and for NATO.
Source: Reuters, 28 APRIL 2016