January 06, 2020
UPDATE:Secretary of Defense Mark Esper disputed a US military letter announcing that troops would be repositioned within Iraq in advance of a potential pullout. Esper claimed he didn’t know where the letter came from and that it was “inconsistent with where we are right now.”There has been “no decision whatsoever to leave Iraq,” Esper told reporters on Monday, responding to a letter suggesting plans to draw down troop presence in the country.The letter “was a mistake,” chairman of the joint chiefs of staff Mark Milley told reporters.
US Military Letter Announcing Potential Iraq Withdrawal ‘Was A Mistake,’ General Says
PREVIOUSLY:US military officials leading a joint task force told Iraqi government officials on Monday that they are preparing to exit Iraq, following the country’s parliament vote on Sunday to eject foreign troops from the country.
“In due deference to the sovereignty of the Republic of Iraq, and as requested by the Iraqi parliament and the prime minister, [we are] repositioning forces over the course of the coming days and weeks to prepare for onward movement,” marine brigadier General William H Seely III wrote in a letter.
“We respect your sovereign decision to order our departure.”On Sunday, Iraq’s parliament passed a resolution calling on prime minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to revoke Iraq’s invitation to host US troops, which have helped the country retake control over territory lost to the Islamic State in 2014. The US currently has about 5,000 troops in Iraq. “The government commits to revoke its request for assistance from the international coalition fighting Islamic State due to the end of military operations in Iraq and the achievement of victory,” the resolution read.The non-binding resolution had overwhelming support from Shiite lawmakers, although Sunni and Kurdish members of parliament boycotted the special session.The vote was a response to the US assassination last week of general Qassem Soleimani, a top-ranking Iranian military commander who was responsible for Tehran’s proxies in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. The US military targeted Soleimani with airstrikes on Baghdad’s airport, a move Shiite politicians in Iraq said violated Iraqi sovereignty.The vote did not legally require the withdrawal of troops because the parliamentary vote would have had to trigger a meeting by the country’s Cabinet, which cannot meet because there is currently an acting prime minister and no official Cabinet.But US military officials likely expect a more official order soon.“We respect your sovereign decision to order our departure,” Seely wrote in the letter Monday.The withdrawal would not necessarily mean the complete end of the US military presence in Iraq, just the withdrawal of the joint task force that’s specifically committed to fighting ISIS.After Sunday’s vote, Trump threatened “sanctions like they’ve never seen before” against Iraq if the country forced the US to withdraw its troops.This is a breaking news story and will be updated. Follow HuffPost UK on Twitter here, and on Facebook here.Related... Cultural Sites Should Never Become Targets. Trump Should Know Better After The Iraq War Downing Street Slaps Down Trump Over Threat To Target Iran's Cultural Sites Donald Trump's Latest 'Unhinged' Tweet On Iran Floats Possibility Of Illegal Military Action
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