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Biden back in Iraq – with a new assignment

In Interview, Iraqi foreign minister tells US not to disengage with Iraq politically – like it did in Afghanistan.

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As the US military presence in Iraq moves into the background, some Iraqi officials concerned that US preoccupation with the war in Afghanistan would prematurely leave Iraq to fend for itself are welcoming Washington's efforts to increase its political engagement here.

"My message to them is ... you lost Afghanistan in 2001, 2002, and 2003 because you turned your attention to Iraq from Afghanistan – now you are redirecting your attentions of Afghanistan and if you disengage with Iraq, it could be another failure. The situation is not that solid," says Foreign Minister Hoyshar Zebari in an interview.

Mr. Zebari, who has served as foreign minister for the last six years, says the US is still needed to help Iraq build government capacity and more effective government – as well as with national reconciliation.

Vice President Joe Biden arrived Thursday night on his first trip as President Barack Obama's point man on Iraq. He is expected to meet with President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, urging them to advance reconciliation efforts.

Now that violence has declined in most of the country, reconciliation between the Shiite-led government and Sunni factions, between Kurds and Arabs, and among a wide range of extremists who could potentially be persuaded to disarm and join the political process is seen as the key to building on the country's fragile stability.


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