U.S. military has no plans to leave Iraq -defense secretary

January 6, 2020 in News by RBN Staff


via: MSN.com


UPDATE: WASHINGTON, Jan 6 (Reuters) – The United States has no plans to pull out militarily from Iraq, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told Pentagon reporters on Monday, following reports by Reuters and other media of a U.S. military letter about a withdrawal.

© ASSOCIATED PRESS Iraqi army soldiers are deployed in front of the U.S. embassy, in Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020. Iran-backed militiamen have withdrawn from the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad after two days of clashes with American security forces. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

“There’s been no decision whatsoever to leave Iraq,” Esper said, when asked about the letter, adding there had also been no plans issued to prepare to leave.

“I don’t know what that letter is … We’re trying to find out where that’s coming from, what that is. But there’s been no decision made to leave Iraq. Period.”

Esper added the United States was still committed to countering Islamic State in Iraq, alongside America’s allies and partners.

EARLIER: BAGHDAD, Jan 6 (Reuters) – The United States military wrote to Iraq on Monday saying it would pull out of the country and would be repositioning forces over the next few days and weeks, a letter seen by Reuters showed.

It was not immediately clear if all roughly 5,000 U.S. troops would leave Iraq.

Several helicopters could be heard flying over Baghdad on Monday night. It was not immediately clear if this was a related development. The letter said coalition forces would be using helicopters to evacuate.

“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 U.S.-led military coalition against Islamic State

The authenticity of the letter, which was addressed to the Iraqi defense ministry’s Combined Joint Operations Baghdad, was confirmed to Reuters independently by an Iraqi military source.

“We respect your sovereign decision to order our departure,” it said.

In Washington, a Pentagon spokesman said he could not immediately confirm its authenticity.

The letter said: “During this time, there will be an increase in helicopter travel in and around the International Zone (IZ) of Baghdad.”

The International Zone is the formal name of Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone which houses government buildings and foreign missions.

(Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein; Additional reporting by Phil Stewart in Washington Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Howard Goller)