Confusion reigned at the Pentagon after the publication of a letter about withdrawal from Iraq, with the top general describing it as a “mistake” and the defense secretary saying there were no plans for a US pullout.
“There’s been no decision to leave Iraq. Period,” Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told reporters at the Pentagon on Monday. He was referring to reports that the head of Combined Joint Task Force Iraq, General William H. Seely III, informed the Iraqi government of preparations to reposition the coalition forces “in due deference to the sovereignty” of Iraq.
MORE BREAKING: @thejointstaff Gen. Milley came back to brief us again after looking at the letter. "It was a mistake," he said. Milley said it was a draft, poorly worded, and had not been signed. It was being worked w/ Iraqis. Bottom Line: US troops ARE NOT leaving, he said. https://t.co/L6wGYiVIkv
— Tara Copp (@TaraCopp) January 6, 2020
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley said that the letter Seely had sent was only a draft and that releasing it was a “mistake.” The Iraqi military confirmed receiving it, however.
BREAKING: The US military sends a letter to the Iraqi military announcing the “onward movement” of US troops “in due deference to the sovereignty of Iraq & as requested by the Iraqi Parliament & the Iraqi PM”. It’s a withdrawal. pic.twitter.com/tQHSsHTtez
— Liz Sly (@LizSly) January 6, 2020
Esper would neither confirm nor deny the letter’s authenticity, though US Army public relations officials said earlier it was real. Instead, he reiterated the position staked out earlier by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, that the Iraqi people “want the US to stay,” and cited the rise in attacks by Iranian “proxy groups.”
Milley says he was told the draft letter mistakenly suggesting US troops were leaving Iraq leaked: "It was sent over to some key Iraqi military guys to get things coordinated for air movements … it went from that guy’s hands to another guy’s hands, then it went to your hands" https://t.co/vjNLf9GEuJ
— Jack Detsch (@JackDetsch_ALM) January 6, 2020
US President Donald Trump likewise rejected the withdrawal on Sunday, threatening Iraq with sanctions and saying the US will not leave until the Iraqis “pay us back” for an airbase that he said cost billions of dollars to build.
If one says that the letter is a draft and then there are no plans, this is just contradictory. Another thing would be to say "the letter is a fake, there is no plan".
Trump vs Pentagon?
— Fabius Dieciscudi ♱ 🇮🇹 🇫🇷 (@fabius10scudi) January 6, 2020
On Sunday, the Iraqi parliament passed a resolution asking the government to disinvite all foreign troops – including the US-led coalition against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) – after last week’s assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in a US drone strike outside Baghdad International Airport.
Read more: Letter on US pullout from Iraq a ‘mistake’
The resolution is non-binding, but reflects the growing frustration in Baghdad with continued US operations in Iraq long after the official defeat of IS was proclaimed.
RT with additional input by GVS News Desk.