VP Biden’s Address to US-Iraq Higher Coordinating Cmte

Remarks by Vice President Biden at the Conclusion of a Meeting of the U.S.-Iraq Higher Coordinating Committee

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Mr. Prime Minister, my distinguished colleagues, as I stated at the outset, both our countries are now launching on a new phase of this relationship. What we discussed here today was not totally new, but what we discussed here today was a way forward.

We will continue to keep our promises as we have thus far. We will in fact, as I said at the outset, draw down our military forces by the end of December in agreement with the so-called SOFA that was signed some years ago. And we’re embarking on a new — and I think we learned today, or we discussed today a new and a comprehensive civilian relationship between the United States and Iraq as sovereign partners in a way that will benefit, as I said at the outset, not only Iraq but the region and in turn the world.

Our civilian mission in Iraq — I think it’s worth saying this — is sized. It is big, as the Foreign Minister said. But it’s sized to meet the request and the obligations and the promises we’ve made. The reason it’s as big as it is, and I say this for American audiences as well as Iraqi audiences is because in order to fully meet the obligations that the strategic framework agreement calls for, in order for Iraq to meet its incredible promise, incredible opportunities that it has before it, that we will have in country, on hand for direct relationships — and the last thing we just discussed is how can we make these coordinating meetings more available, more regularized and more engaging because there’s so much opportunity and so much work to be done. So we will have in country, which we don’t in every country, on hand experts, U.S. experts in every one of the fields that we discussed here today.

It is not a matter of us having the luxury of being able to send — or Iraq — diplomats and experts back and forth across the world. If we’re going to get this job done together, we need to have people on the spot, on the job, in place, immediately accessible for meetings and emergencies relating to their areas they’re concerned with in a matter of hours, not a matter of weeks’ planning. So that’s the reason why we’re going to have in country not only diplomatic experts but experts on trade, agriculture, education, health care, transportation, rule of law, energy, security and the list goes on because I don’t know about you, Mr. Prime Minister, but occasionally I at home have to explain why we have such a large embassy here. Why.

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