Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Iraq Thursday during an unannounced visit to meet with government officials amid a political crisis that threatens to cripple Baghdad’s crusade against the Islamic State terrorist group.
Biden, whose trip was kept secret in advance for security reasons, had not been to Iraq since 2011 when the United States withdrew its troops, according to the Associated Press.
He will meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and top Iraqi leaders to encourage political unity as the nation moves toward a potential government collapse because of increasing political rifts.
The Associated Press reported:
Protests and demands for political reforms have paralyzed an Iraqi government already struggling with a troubled economy and violent extremists. The Obama administration has stepped up the U.S. military role with more troops and equipment, but the U.S. worries that infighting in Baghdad is jeopardizing hard-fought gains with President Barack Obama set to leave office in January.
The current turmoil sparked after Obama ally Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi attempted to combat corruption by replacing the Shiite members in his cabinet with technocrats and reformers. The effort incited sectarian fissures and led protestors to demand his resignation, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The Obama administration has aired concerns that the political fissures in Iraq will ultimately detract from the nation’s efforts to degrade ISIS.
"The more the political system in Baghdad is consumed with everyone keeping their job," a senior administration official told the Washington Post, "the more difficult it is for them to all get together" in the battle against ISIS.
During his trip, Biden will collaborate with top Iraqi officials to devise a strategy that will help the nation refocus its efforts on the government’s military operations.
"There can be no greater symbol of how much support he gives to the Iraqi government in general and how much faith we have in Prime Minister Abadi than the vice president of the United States showing up in Baghdad," the senior official told the Washington Post.