Updated 11:44 p.m. Eastern Time
Vice President Joe Biden has arrived in Iraq in an unscheduled visit ahead of President Obama's primetime speech tomorrow heralding the end of U.S. combat operations.
Among the items on his agenda is the country's inability to form a new government since the March elections and the role going forward of the United States military, which plans to keep about 50,000 troops in Iraq through the end of next year.
According to the White House, this is the 6th visit to Iraq for Vice President Biden, who has been charged with overseeing the Obama administration's Iraq policy.
Last week, Biden said, "I have visited the country 13 times; I know all the players from all the leading coalitions; I speak regularly with Iraqi leaders; and I understand Iraq's intricate politics." He appears to have been talking about trips both as vice president and while he served in the Senate.
Biden will participate in a pair of formal ceremonies Wednesday. One will herald the change of mission in Iraq, with the U.S. shifting from a military to a diplomatic role under what is being called "Operation New Dawn," and the other will mark Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin's takeover for Gen. Ray Odierno as commander of U.S. forces in the country.
Biden will meet with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, Vice President Adil Abd al-Mahdi, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, leader of the Iraqiyya coalition Ayad Allawi, Chairman of the Islamic Supreme Council Ammar al-Hakim and other political leaders during the trip.
The White House said in a release he plans "to discuss the latest developments in Iraq and to urge Iraqi leaders to conclude negotiations on the formation of a new government."
"The Vice President's visit at this juncture will reinforce the long-term U.S. commitment to Iraq," the White House said.
Biden will meet with al-Maliki Tuesday morning, according to the Associated Press. A stalemate since the March 7th parliamentary elections has meant continued political uncertainty that may have emboldened insurgents.