Biden Says U.S. to Remain Involved in Iraq After End of Conflict

Vice President Joe Biden said the U.S. will remain “deeply involved” in Iraq after all U.S. troops are pulled out this month as the almost nine-year conflict comes to an end.

“We will be deeply involved within every aspect of their government, from helping them improve their agriculture, to train air traffic controllers, to train pilots for the F-16s they’re buying,” Biden said in an interview on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” that aired today.

In October, President Barack Obama announced that all U.S. troops would be out of Iraq in time for the holidays. The war began in March 2003 and enlisted more than 1 million Americans who served in the country at some time. The war cost nearly 4,500 U.S. lives and left more than 32,000 wounded, Pentagon figures show.

Biden said the U.S. is “not looking for an ally” in Iraq and instead wants Iraq to be a “partner” with a “stable democratic government that is not beholden to anyone in the region and is able to be secure within its own borders.” To be considered a U.S. ally, he said, there must be a formal military agreement in place.

The interview was part of a week of events marking the end of the conflict, including a meeting between Obama, Biden and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Dec. 12.

Biden said in the interview that there will be trade between Iraq and Iran, though he said the Iraqi government wants to ensure that “there is no undue influence coming from Iran or any other country in the region.”

Concern Over Militias

Biden said he is concerned about militias supported by Iran crossing the border into Iraq and other areas in the region.

In an interview airing on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow show” today, Biden said one of the lessons from the war is that the U.S. has “such an incredible military capability” that it can try and impose democracy “but it’s going to take you a trillion dollars and a decade, and you’re going to have to make a judgment whether or not you had better spent your time and effort doing something else to make the world safer than that.”

Earlier, Obama taped four television interviews with stations that have a large military audience, including stations in Pensacola, Florida, and Seattle.

In an interview with WVEC in Norfolk, Virginia, Obama said “we have an obligation here at home” to take care of returning soldiers. He pointed to a provision in his jobs plan that provides tax breaks to companies that hire soldiers.

Tomorrow, the president and first lady Michelle Obama will travel to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, home of the 82nd Airborne Division and the Army Special Operations Command, where he will delivers remarks to troops and their families.

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