US Defence Secretary Mark Esper has been prompted to deny that US troops are withdrawing from Iraq, after a letter from an American general suggested such. The document, whose authenticity has been confirmed, stated that the US would be “repositioning forces in the coming days and weeks”.
Pentagon Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley said yesterday that the letter was a mere “draft” and “should not have been sent”, informing reporters that “it was an honest mistake”.
The DOD insider who leaked this letter to #iraq parliament, risked his job to try and tell us something. It is our duty to figure out what he was trying to tell us.
We know this wasn't a "Draft" because it was translated. Someone in the DOD is unhappy it wasn't sent to Iraq. pic.twitter.com/E7Yi8I7CMs
— Syrian Girl 🇸🇾 (@Partisangirl) January 7, 2020
The news of the letter reportedly sent to the Iraqi military has prompted confusion, most of all among the US military as it appeared to have been sent by Brigadier General William H Seely, head of the US military’s task force in Iraq, to Abdul Amir, the deputy director of Combined Joint Operations, reported the BBC.
The BBC’s defence correspondent said he had been told by a coalition source that the letter was to inform the Iraqis that the US was moving troops out of the so-called Green Zone so as to provide protection elsewhere but did not mean a full withdrawal.
The Iraqi Parliament voted Sunday to expel foreign and American forces, reflecting a widespread backlash against the US over the assassination of the Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp’s Quds Force and the Iraqi deputy commander of the Popular Mobilisation Forces, which is integrated into the Iraqi armed forces in Baghdad.
The Trump administration is reportedly drafting economic sanctions against Iraq, following the president’s threats against Baghdad should it proceed with its democratically approved resolution in requesting US troops withdraw from the country.
The Swedish Ministry of Defence announced yesterday that it intends to keep its modest military presence in the country until further notice.
Germany, however, announced the withdrawal of 32 of its soldiers who are currently deployed in Iraq on training missions and their temporary transfer to Jordan and Kuwait.
“These troops can be brought back at any time if the training in Iraq is to resume,” a statement by the defence ministry said.