US Army apparently accidentally notifies Iraq of troop transfers
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In a letter to the Iraqi executive, the US Army stated that it was planning to “reposition” its troops – these should also be moved “out of Iraq”. The Pentagon will row back later.
ein letters about an alleged US withdrawal from Iraq has caused considerable confusion. The US Armed Forces are preparing their “movement from Iraq” and would reposition themselves in the coming days and weeks, a letter from General William Seely, Head of the U.S. military operation in Iraq, to the Iraqi army leadership. The letter is available to the AFP news agency and the Washington Post.
The Iraqi parliament had demanded the withdrawal of US troops after the US drone attack on top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in Iraq. “In recognition of the sovereignty of the Iraqi Republic and as requested by Parliament and the Prime Minister, the International Alliance Against the Islamic State will reposition troops in the coming days and weeks,” Seely writes.
These are “troop movements out of Iraq”. This move would result in “increased helicopter traffic” in and around Baghdad, especially in the evening and night hours. This is to avoid the impression that “more coalition troops are being transferred to Iraq”.
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper later stressed, however, that the US had no plans to withdraw from Iraq. “No decision was made to leave Iraq. Period, ”he said.
The letter contradicts the US government’s stance, Esper said. Chief of Staff Mark Milley said the letter was genuine, but it was accidentally sent.
The United States invaded Iraq in 2003 and remained in the country until 2011. In the meantime, up to 170,000 US soldiers were stationed there. In 2014, thousands of U.S. soldiers returned to Iraq to fight the Islamic State (IS) jihadist militia. Dozens of countries are involved in the military alliance against the jihadists.
This text was updated at 10:50 p.m. with the response from the Department of Defense.