BAGHDAD — Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Iraq early Thursday for talks about the future of American troops in the country as they prepare to leave at year's end, but three explosions in the capital killing two people demonstrated the lingering security challenges facing the country.
Biden's unannounced trip marks the first visit by a top US official since Iraq approved a new Cabinet last month, breaking a political deadlock and jump-starting its stalled government after March's inconclusive elections.
"I'm here to help the Iraqis celebrate the progress they've made. They've formed a government and that's a good thing. Biden told reporters before meeting with Ambassador to Iraq James F. Jeffrey and Gen. Lloyd Austin at the US Embassy in Baghdad.
"They have got a long way to go," he acknowledged.
Iraqi officials said they expected the issue of whether to keep some US forces in Iraq beyond the Dec. 31 deadline would dominate Biden's talks Thursday with President Jalal Talabani, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Kurdish President Massoud Barzani.