January 12th, 2011
05:56 PM ET
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Vice President Joe Biden has arrived on an unannounced visit to Iraq following earlier stops in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The visit comes after Iraq announced the formation of an inclusive national government last month. That announcement followed a months long political stalemate between Iraq's various ethnic groups and sects following national elections in March of last year.
Biden's visit also comes after the United States formally ended its combat mission last August leaving less than 50,000 troops there in an advisory role. "The remaining troops are advising and assisting Iraq’s security forces, conducting partnered counter-terrorism operations, and protecting U.S. civilians," the White House said in a written statement announcing Biden's visit to Iraq. "In accordance with an agreement between the U.S. and Iraqi governments, all U.S. forces will leave Iraq by December 31, 2011. At the same time, the United States is increasing its diplomatic, political and economic engagement with Iraq, opening consulates and branch offices throughout the country and pursuing important programs to help train Iraq’s police and judiciary and to build strong business and investment ties."
In 2009, President Obama asked Biden to oversee Iraq policy for the administration. This is Biden's seventh visit to Iraq as vice president.