The US military informed its counterparts in Baghdad on Monday it was preparing for “movement out of Iraq,” a day after the Iraqi parliament urged the government oust foreign troops.
The head of the US military’s Task Force Iraq, Brigadier General William Seely, sent a letter to the head of Iraq’s joint operations command, a copy of which was seen by AFP.
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper, however, has denied that US forces would pull out of Iraq.
“There is no decision whatsoever to leave Iraq... There has been no decision made to leave Iraq. Period,” Esper said. “That letter is inconsistent with where we are right now," he added.
The letter said troops would “be repositioning forces over the course of the coming days and weeks to prepare for onward movement.”
“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,” read the letter.
It was signed by United States Marine Corps Brigadier General William H. Seely III, commanding general of Task Force Iraq, the US-led military coalition against ISIS.
The authenticity of the letter, which was addressed to the Iraqi defense ministry’s Combined Joint Operations Baghdad, was initially confirmed by both Reuters and AFP independently via Iraqi military source.
Hours later, Army General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the letter regarding Iraq was a poorly worded and an unsigned draft meant to underscore increased levels of troop movements.