Vice President Biden will predict a resolution to the current political problems and elections impasse in Iraq when he delivers a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars on Monday in Indianapolis.
Senior Administration Officials tell Fox News that the speech will be divided into three parts - Iraq, Afghanistan, and the veterans programs expanded and funded under the Obama administration.
Biden will tell the audience of veterans, the political dilemma in Iraq, an on-going issue since the March 7 elections, will be resolved "in the near future" according to administration officials. But one official says Biden will not predict a date for final political compromise. He will also not name key political figures, like former Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, former Premier Ayad Allawi or the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
The portion of the speech focusing on Iraq will include a section about the progress the Iraqi army and police forces have made in the country in providing security to major cities.
The speech is the beginning of an administration push to show the Iraqis are ready to "go it alone," as the last of the U.S. combat forces leave the country after an eight year long war. September 1 marks the start of a new operation in Iraq for the United States military named "New Dawn."
"It's not like 90,000 combat forces left in August," a senior official said. "This has been going on for months and the Iraqis have stepped up. That's a big part of the progress the vice president will talk about."
Biden will also compliment the U.S. military for carrying out the massive logistical challenge of withdrawing a brigade of combat forces in a month with minimal delay and virtually no injuries or death.
"We thought we would need every day up until Aug. 31 to move combat forces out. We are ahead of schedule and that's a credit to the extraordinary work of the U.S. military," said one administration official.The top U.S. commander in Iraq echoes the administration's feelings that Iraq is ready to be on its own, saying once the last U.S. combat forces pull out on August 31, it would take a "complete failure" of the Iraqi Security Forces to prompt the United States to resume combat operations in Iraq.
"If you had some political divisions within the security forces that caused them to fracture, but we don't see that happening," General Ray Odierno said on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday. "[T]hey've been doing so well for so long now that we really believe we're beyond that point."Odierno is hopeful the recent political progress in Iraq will also help move the country forward, though he admits it's been slow going.
"They're back talking again. They haven't broken off talks, so they're back discussing it. So that's a good sign. What -- what they're working on now is reforms and power- sharing agreements. And that's -- that's important. We want them to decide what reforms have to be put in place, what kind of power- sharing agreements they need in order to move towards governmental formation," Odierno said. "And I all we're trying to do is facilitate that process. And we're starting to see movement forward. And I think that's encouraging."
But some within Iraq say they are not ready to be on their own - especially militarily. Lt.General Babakar Zebari told AFP in Baghdad if he had it his way, troops would not be exiting Iraq - at least not yet. "If I were asked about the withdrawal, I would say to politicians: the US army must stay until the Iraqi army is fully ready in 2020," Zebari said.
It's a sentiment echoed by those who have spent time watching Iraq transform since the war began in 2003."Going down to zero U.S. military units by the end of next year, as currently envisioned, is too absolute and too fast. The calming, confidence-building role they play remains important and will probably stay that way," Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institute wrote in the New York Times.
Regardless of opposition, President Obama has planned for this transition since 2009. In remarks at Camp Lejeune in February of that year, he outlined a thorough plan by his administration with the target date of August 31, 2010 for the end of all combat troops. In the same remarks, Obama did specify a "transitional force" of 50,000 troops would stay behind to help train and work with Iraqi security forces. At the time of those remarks it was hoped the Iraqi government would have made more progress on their coalition government.
Elections held in March produced no outright winner, and while parties agreed Friday to resume talks of a coalition government, that has produced worry among some in and out of the country. Those in the Obama administration, including Biden and his advisers, are hopeful, recalling that it took six months for a government to form after the last Iraqi election.
"This time around, as it happens, the election was extraordinarily close. The top two coalitions are divided by a grand total of two seats. And so almost by definition, we knew it was going to take some time," said Tony Blinken, National Security Advisor to Vice President Biden. "But there's a big difference between this time and last time, and that is that the government, the interim government or caretaker government that's in place, has been doing what we hoped it would do and what the Iraqi people needed it to do, which is basically take care of business."
Nonetheless, it was Vice President Biden - whose son Beau served a yearlong deployment in Iraq - who predicted during a visit to Iraq over the 4th of July weekend that the Iraqis would reach an agreement on a government by the end of summer. That hasn't yet happened. And while there are some reports out of Iraq that its people feel the US is more focused on the withdrawing of its own troops rather than the stability of the Iraqi country, the Obama administration has and will again on Monday, underscore its long term commitment to Iraq.
"As we enter this new relationship, I want to reiterate -- and I can speak and I do speak for the President of the United States -- our commitment to you will not disappear on August 31st; it will grow stronger," the vice president said to Iraqis attending a Fourth of July reception in Baghdad. "As you continue to stand up and build your democracy, we'll be there with you economically, politically, socially, science, education," Biden asserted. "America has no hidden agenda. We have nothing more than to want you to grow as an independent, prosperous democracy. That will benefit our interest more than anything that else could happen in the region."
The president, as Fox News reported on Sunday, is set to make a speech on Iraq before the final U.S. combat forces leave on August 31.
Fox News' Major Garrett and Anne McGinn contributed to this report.