UPDATE: U.S. Letter Agreeing To Withdraw From Iraq Was Mistake, Says General
Update to story below:
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of StaffArmy Gen. Mark A. Milley responded to reports that U.S. Marine Corps Brigadier General William H. Seely sent a letter to the Iraqi Defense Ministry's Combined Joint Operations — authenticated by Reuters — announcing the U.S. would withdraw its troops from Iraq at the Iraqi government's request.
Milley said: "That letter is a draft it was a mistake, it was unsigned, it should not have been released…poorly worded, implies withdrawal, that is not what’s happening,” according to CNN's Jake Tapper.
Though Milley said the letter "implies" withdrawal of U.S. troops, the letter in fact explicitly states that American armed forces would be leaving Iraq at the request of the Iraqi government. If the letter is a draft copy and the U.S. is not withdrawing troops, as Milley stated, then it appears the Trump administration is backpedaling on its original position.
Original story follows.
Following the Iraqi parliament’s vote on Sunday to expel U.S. troops from the country, the United States-led military coalition against Islamic State has said it will pull out of the country, according to Haaretz.
The news came in the form of a letter from U.S. Marine Corps Brigadier General William H. Seely III, the commanding general of Task Force Iraq, to the Iraqi Defense Ministry's Combined Joint Operations Baghdad, which was reviewed and authenticated by Reuters.
"Sir, in deference to the sovereignty of the Republic of Iraq, and as requested by the Iraqi Parliament and the Prime Minister, CJTF-OIR will be repositioning forces over the course of the coming days and weeks to prepare for onward movement," the letter read. “We respect your sovereign decision to order our departure.”
The Iraqi parliament’s nonbinding resolution demanding that the U.S. make its exit was fueled by “outrage over the drone strike in Baghdad that killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of Iran-backed militias in Iraq.”
Haaretz noted that the U.S. exit could create further chaos in the region, particularly if the void allows ISIS militants to make a comeback: “Iraqi forces rely on the U.S. for logistics and weapons in pursuing them.”
The move is also a stark turn-around for the Trump administration, considering President Donald Trump's threat this week to level sanctions on Iraq over its call for U.S. removal.
"We have a very extraordinarily expensive air base that's there. It cost billions of dollars to build. We're not leaving unless they pay us back for it," Trump told reporters. If Iraq asked the U.S. to leave on unfriendly terms, he said, "we will charge them sanctions like they've never seen before, ever. It'll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame."