Biden: If Iraqis Move Up Troop Withdrawal Deadline, U.S. Will Abide By It

By Lindsey Ellerson

Sep 17, 2009 3:22pm

ABC News’ Karen Travers reports: On his third and final day in Iraq, Vice President Biden said the United States remains committed to the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) on troop withdrawal deadlines, but said that it is up to the Iraqis to decide if they want to speed up that departure. “Whatever the Iraqi people decide, we will abide by it,” Biden told reporters in Baghdad. The vice president said there is nothing the U.S. military or political representatives have seen to suggest that the agreed upon deadlines would not be met. The agreement calls for the U.S. will withdrawal U.S. combat brigades by the end of August 2010 and all remaining U.S. troops by the end of 2011. Biden said it was clear in all of his meetings that the Iraqi political leadership understands how critical the January election is to Iraq’s future and said they are committed to a transparent and legitimate election. Asked about the security situation and recent violence in Iraq, Biden said that if these “god awful” and “spectacular” attacks had happened four years ago, it would be a very different situation. Biden ate lunch with American troops at Camp Liberty today, posing for pictures and shaking hands with servicemen and women. Later the vice president traveled to northern Iraq to meet with Kurdish leaders and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. As Biden was greeted by Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdish Regional Government, he recalled a planned visit to Irbil in July that was scrapped because of severe dust storms. "So good to see you. Thank you for having me. It's an honor to be here. I didn't bring a sandstorm this time,” the vice president said. After his meeting with Barzani, Biden touted the “positive activity” taking place in the region, including building and development. He noted that Barzani was “negotiating good faith” with his political counterparts in Baghdad his colleagues in Baghdad on a number of outstanding political issues. “He knows, and we all know, these are difficult issues.  If they weren't, they would have been resolved a long time ago,” Biden said. Biden said the United States “fully understands, recognizes, and supports” the sovereign Iraqi government and is committed to a united Iraq. “We stand ready to continue this partnership with President Barzani and the other leaders of Iraq — all those who are willing to make this country safer — and to take the concrete, although difficult steps that still remain to ensure Iraq's long-term success and unity,” the vice president said. -Karen Travers

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