The United States intends to complete its mission in Iraq and will not allow the country to become a staging ground for further terrorist attacks on Americans, US Vice President Dick Cheney said on Tuesday.
"All Americans can be certain that we intend to complete the mission so that another generation of Americans does not have to come back here and do it again," Cheney told about 3,000 US troops at Balad Air Base 70 km (45 miles) north of Baghdad.
The war in Iraq, which enters its sixth year this week, is deeply unpopular in the United States and has contributed to President George W. Bush's low popularity ratings. It is a major issue in the US presidential election.
Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are campaigning to bring US troops home while the presumptive Republican candidate, John McCain, supports keeping high numbers of troops in Iraq until it is more stable.
Cheney, on a visit to Iraq to assess the success of a US troop build-up, on Monday called the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq a "successful endeavour" and promised Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki the unwavering support of the United States.
"We have no intention of abandoning our friends or allowing this country ... to become a staging ground for further attacks against Americans," Cheney, an architect of the 2003 invasion, told the soldiers at Balad.
The Bush administration has said that leaving Iraq too soon would undercut security gains and allow Al Qaeda militants there to regroup, potentially posing a future threat to the United States. (Reuters)
Cheney says US will complete mission in Iraq