Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said on Monday that a letter written by the United States-led coalition against ISIS stating that it will be “repositioning forces” in Iraq in the coming days is in fact a draft.
“That letter is a draft, it was a mistake, it should not have been released,” he told reporters, adding that it “implies withdrawal” and “that is not what’s happening.”
The letter from U.S. Marine Corps Brigadier General William H. Seely III, the commanding general of Task Force Iraq, read: “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.”
Defense Secretary Mark Esper also said Monday afternoon that “there’s been no decision whatsoever to leave Iraq.” Iraq’s parliament on Sunday voted to expel U.S. troops from the country following the assassination of Maj. Gen. Qassim Soleimani in an American drone strike.
Officials in Iraq reportedly toned down threats on Monday to expel U.S. forces after Trump threatened to impose sanctions over the vote. The office of acting Iraqi prime minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, said on Monday that Mahdi “stressed the importance of mutual cooperation on implementing the withdrawal of foreign troops,” after he had demanded “urgent measures” on Sunday.