The withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Iraq by Dec. 31 will mark the beginning of a historic new phase in relations, Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday in Baghdad.
We are embarking on a new path together, a new phase in this relationship, Biden said, That partnership includes a robust security relationship based on what you decide -- what you decide -- you think that relationship should be.
We will continue our discussions with your government over the substance of our security arrangements, including areas of training, intelligence and counterterrorism, Biden added.
Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, echoed Biden's remarks.
Biden is visiting Baghdad a month before American troops are completely withdrawn from the country.
The U.S.-Iraq Higher Coordinating Committee issued a joint statement saying that bilateral relationships will focus on security, trade, education and culture, law enforcement, environment and energy. Biden also said that both nations had reached a consensus on building separate committees for coordinating security and defense cooperation.
The U.S. has completed nearly 1,800 projects, valued at $800 million, in Iraq's health sector, including the renovation of 133 primary health centers, apart from investing in Iraq's transportation infrastructure, air-traffic-control network and railroads, Biden noted. He said the U.S.'s sole interest in Iraq was about bringing stability to the region.
There will still be security concerns, but we are confident your government is fully capable of handling those internal security concerns, he said.
The U.S.'s participation for the first time since 1988 in the recent Baghdad International Trade Fair, showcasing 85 American businesses and organizations, has been viewed as an initial step towards building trade relations. The U.S. is currently providing technical expertise in developing private banks and microfinance institutions in Iraq. In addition, Iraq receives U.S. patronage in development of sophisticated judiciary and law enforcement.
Rather than leaving Iraq, the U.S. is going to deepen our engagement with you, Biden said, adding that he looks forward to Maliki's visit to Washington in mid-December.