House Speaker John Boehner is spending the weekend in Iraq, leading four other Republican congressmen and one Democratic representative into meetings with top officials there, including a session on Saturday with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
It is Boehner’s fourth trip to Iraq but first as speaker.
Boehner’s office provided no details of the meetings other than announcing that the speaker, who arrived there on Saturday, also has conferred with U.S. Ambassador James Jeffrey and unnamed “senior military leaders.”
The other members of the delegation are Republican Reps. Mac Thornberry and Mike Conaway, both of Texas; Tom Rooney of Florida; and Joe Heck of Nevada, and Democratic Rep. Dan Boren of Oklahoma.
A spokesman for Boehner said the speaker also met with troops from Ohio while other members of his delegation met with troops from their home states.
In a statement issued by his office, Boehner hailed gains he said had been achieved in the last four years. “Our members were able to see this progress firsthand,” he said.
He added, “The delegation focused on the issues expected to determine how the government of Iraq and the United States proceed during the transition this year and how we will continue to work to maintain a mutually beneficial relationship moving forward which fully respects Iraq’s sovereignty and reflects core U.S. interests and values.”
Agence France-Presse reported Maliki told Boehner that Iraqi forces were ready to assume control of the country’s security as the deadline for U.S. troops to withdraw approaches.
"The Iraqi security forces and the armed forces have become able to take responsibility, to maintain security and to work efficiently," Maliki said in a statement.