Trump administration forced to deny plans to pull troops from Iraq after ‘poorly-worded draft letter’ leaks online
The letter, which was not signed but was printed on the letterhead of Brig Gen William Seely, alerted Iraqi military colleagues of “repositioning over the course of the coming days and weeks to prepare for onward movement”, Andrew Buncombe and Andrew Feinberg report.
It said there would be an increase in helicopter travel around the Green Zone and added, in reference to the Iraqi parliament’s vote to demand that US forces leave the country following Washington’s killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani: “We respect your sovereign decision to order our departure.”
Coalition forces would take steps “to ensure that the movement out of Iraq is conducted in a safe and efficient manner”, the memo continued.
Amid confusion that reverberated around the world, US defence secretary Mark Esper told reporters at the Pentagon he knew nothing about the letter. “There’s been no decision whatsoever to leave Iraq,” he said. He also told reporters the US remained committed to the fight against Isis, in Iraq and elsewhere.
Minutes after that hastily-arranged briefing Gen Mark Milley, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, returned to tell reporters: ”Here’s the bottom line, this was a mistake. Nobody’s leaving.”
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