(Reuters) – Vice President Joe Biden said on Sunday the end of U.S. combat missions in Iraq was on schedule for August and would not be delayed if the country failed to form a new government by that deadline.
“There is a transition government. There is a government in place that’s working. Iraqi security is being provided by the Iraqis, with our assistance. We’re going to have — still have 50,000 troops there,” Biden told ABC News’ “This Week” program in an interview.
Iraq’s political parties have been deadlocked since an inconclusive March election over who should form the coalition government and serve as prime minister and president.
“I don’t have a doubt in my mind that we’ll be able to meet the commitment of having only 50,000 troops there and it will not in any way affect the physical stability of Iraq,” Biden said.
U.S. troops intend to end combat operations on August 31 before a full withdrawal by the end of 2011.
Iraqis had hoped the election would lead to stability and economic recovery seven years after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. But coalition talks could last several more months, exposing Iraq to a risky vacuum as it emerges from sectarian war but struggles to contain a stubborn insurgency.
The sectarian war between once dominant Sunnis and majority Shi’ites that kicked off after the 2003 invasion has largely subsided but a Sunni Islamist insurgency persists.
Suicide bombers killed 43 people on Sunday in two separate attacks against government-backed Sunni militias, Iraqi security sources said.
(Reporting by Alister Bull, Editing by Stacey Joyce)