WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki voiced cautious optimism regarding the situation in Iraq Wednesday, noting greater stability and decreased violence as U.S. troops continue to cede control to their Iraqi counterparts.
"I have no doubt that there will be some tough days ahead," Obama said during a joint appearance at the White House.
"There are still those who want to foment sectarian conflict. ... But make no mistake, those efforts will fail," he added.
The president said that he is committed to moving forward with a pledge to remove all American combat brigades from Iraq by the end of August 2010, as well as all U.S. troops by the end of 2011.
For his part, al-Maliki promised that the Iraqi government would step up its efforts to prevent a return of widespread sectarian violence.
"Those who thought that the Iraqi forces (would) be incapable of imposing peace and security (have been) proved to be wrong," he said.
In addition to meeting with Obama, al-Maliki is scheduled to sit down with Vice President Joe Biden during his U.S. visit. He will also meet with the secretaries of State, Defense and Treasury, and with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Some foreign policy experts have expressed concern that as the U.S. pivots from Iraq to Afghanistan, Iraq and its problems will be ignored.
Responding to that criticism, one senior administration official said this week, "Our goal is, in fact as we formalize the relationship, to concentrate on other areas," but he suggested that Iraq would remain a U.S. priority.
Only hours before the two leaders met, at least five Iranian pilgrims were killed and dozens more wounded earlier Wednesday in an attack northeast of Baghdad.
The violence came a day after a spate of bombings left at least 22 Iraqis dead and about 150 wounded.
–CNN's Jomana Karadsheh and Dan Lothian contributed to this report
I am an Independent but I say, thanks to George Bush! :)
The amount of money that has been spent in Iraq can fund healthcare reform. There's your answer GOP.
And when we leave it will go back to being the same way it has been for a thousand years. We should have never gone into iraq to start with, just for a personal vendetta bush had against hussein. The fight was in afghanistan and should have stayed there and been finished long before now.
Sounds like they need to direct their thanks to one former President who had the big "xxxxs" to help Iraq escape from a leader who ruled by death threats. I, for one, proudly look at the actions of our past President and military for their roles in freeing these people.
Credit for stability should go to President George W. Bush. Barack Obama has done nothing and he is not fit to be our commander in chief.
aware July 22nd, 2009 4:56 pm ET
I am an Independent but I say, thanks to George Bush!
I agree. Thank you George Bush for making this possible through unwavering strong leadership in the face of severe domestic political pressures from Congress and others. This is your win along with the dedicated professionals in our armed forces!
Obama wants to take credit for this one, but should really just vote "Present".