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Biden makes unannounced trip to Iraq

By Amy R. Connolly
Vice President Joe Biden walks with U.S. Ambassador Stuart Jones and Army Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, who commands the Operation Inherent Resolve mission, after he arrived at Baghdad International Airport in Iraq on Thursday. Biden made the unannounced trip in an effort to soothe political strife in the country. Photo from Biden/Twitter
Vice President Joe Biden walks with U.S. Ambassador Stuart Jones and Army Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, who commands the Operation Inherent Resolve mission, after he arrived at Baghdad International Airport in Iraq on Thursday. Biden made the unannounced trip in an effort to soothe political strife in the country. Photo from Biden/Twitter

BAGHDAD, April 28 (UPI) -- Vice President Joe Biden made an unannounced trip to Iraq in an effort to resolve a political crisis that is hampering efforts to defeat the Islamic State.

Biden landed at Baghdad International Airport on Thursday, greeted by U.S. Ambassador Stuart Jones and Army Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, who commands the Operation Inherent Resolve mission against the IS, also known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh. Biden's schedule was not publicly disclosed over concerns for his safety, but he is expected to meet with government leaders, including Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

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"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," a senior administration official said of Biden's visit to Baghdad.

Biden's visit comes after al-Abadi reshuffled key cabinet posts in an effort to implement promised reforms over accusations of government corruption and the country's budget crisis, caused by dropping oil prices. Wide-scale protests in Baghdad have distracted from efforts to dismantle the IS, forcing the government to withdraw troops previously focused on the militant group to protect the capital. In a show of support, there has been an influx of visits from top U.S. officials in the past weeks, including the secretary of state and the secretary of defense.

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Earlier this month, the White House agreed to deploy 200 more troops and AH-64 Apache helicopters, in addition to helping fund the Kurdish Peshmerga with up to $415 million, to retake Mosul from the IS.

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