Vice President-elect Joe Biden capped his tour of U.S. battlefronts with a visit to Iraq, arriving Monday in Baghdad following trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
A series of bombs, meanwhile, targeted Iraqi security forces in Baghdad, providing a grim reminder of the war that President-elect Barack Obama has promised to end. At least 10 people died, officials said.
Despite near-daily attacks, violence is down sharply in Iraq, even as it climbs in Afghanistan, where Obama has promised to refocus U.S. efforts. Biden met with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani as well as one of his deputies, Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi, and deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh, but made no public statement.
Biden's son is serving in Iraq with the Delaware National Guardsmen, but officials declined to say whether the two men would see each other during the trip.
Division of Iraq plan?Biden, longtime of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is one of the few members of the U.S. Senate with a high profile in Iraq, where he is known as the author of a 2006 plan to divide the country into self-governing Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish enclaves.
That plan angered and offended many Iraqi politicians, and was quietly put on the back burner as violence ebbed. Biden voted for the 2003 invasion of Iraq but later become a critic of the war and the way President George W. Bush executed it.
Iraq has become far less violent over the past 18 months, but militants still launch bomb attacks frequently targeting Iraqi civilians or the security forces.
U.S. forces are increasingly taking a back seat to Iraqi troops under a new bilateral security deal that took effect at the beginning of this year and.
That security deal calls for U.S. combat troops to leave Iraqi cities by the middle of this year and for all troops to withdraw by the end of 2011. It was negotiated by the outgoing Bush administration, but is seen as compatible with Obama's plan to withdraw combat forces by mid-2010.
In Washington, Bush said he did the right thing in sending an additional 30,000 American troops to Iraq to lower the level of daily violence and to stabilize life.
"The question is, in the long run, will this democracy survive, and that's going to be a question for future presidents," he told reporters.
Monday's violence began when two vehicles parked about 50 yards apart exploded in quick succession as a police patrol passed a bakery in a mainly Shiite area.
The road, which runs through a commercial district, is frequently used by police and army convoys in the eastern New Baghdad neighborhood, residents said.
Police and hospital officials said four people, including a policeman who died at the hospital, were killed and nine others wounded.
"I rushed out with others to see three bodies on the ground in pools of blood," said Mohammed Nasir, 55, who runs a food takeaway shop in New Baghdad. "This place has witnessed several bombings before and we fear that violence will come back after a period of quiet."
The U.S. military said the Iraqi police were hit when explosives planted on a truck detonated as they were responded to the initial car bomb. The U.S. military gave a lower casualty toll, saying one Iraqi policeman was killed and two civilians were wounded.
In western Baghdad, a roadside bomb struck a military convoy with a truck carrying weapons in the mainly Sunni area of Yarmouk, killing three Iraqi soldiers and wounding four bystanders, police said.
Two other roadside bombs apparently aimed at Iraqi army and police patrols elsewhere in the capital killed three people and wounded six others, police officials said.
The Iraqi officials all spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to release the information.
Security forces targeted
The U.S. military confirmed that three Iraqi soldiers also were killed in Baghdad but said it had no other deaths reported. Casualty tolls frequently differ due to the chaotic aftermath of attacks in Iraq.
Iraqi security forces have been frequently targeted as they increasingly take the lead in military operations. U.S. troops are assuming more of an advisory role and preparing to withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011.
Also Monday, the U.S. military announced that a U.S. soldier died the day before of a non-combat related injury near Samarra north of Baghdad. No further details were released.
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