U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Iraq on Monday as U.S. troops prepared to mark the Obama Administration's formal end to U.S. combat operations.
A U.S. embassy official told reporters that Biden landed in the Iraqi capital at around 6:00 p.m., one day before a speech by President Barack Obama hailing the major reduction in American troops.
Just under 50,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, down from a peak of nearly 170,000 at the height of the 2007 military surge. Additionally, U.S. troops no longer will be allowed to go on combat missions unless requested and accompanied by Iraqi forces.
Biden is expected to begin a shift toward a greater U.S. diplomatic role. He is scheduled to hold talks with Iraqi leaders during a period of political deadlock over forming the country's next government.
His visit comes at a time when Iraq is on high alert for attacks by insurgents after a series of bombings that killed dozens of people and underscored the fragility of Iraq's recent security gains.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.