Millennium Post

'Letter on US pullout from Iraq a mistake'

Baghdad: The US military on Monday told the Iraqi government American troops were preparing to pull out of the country but a top US general in Washington said the message was sent by "mistake".

It came after a deadly American drone strike on Baghdad on Friday that killed senior Iranian and Iraqi military commanders, sparking fury in both countries with Tehran vowing "revenge". The head of the US military's Task Force Iraq, Brigadier General William Seely, informed his Iraqi counterparts in a letter dated Sunday that troops were preparing to leave.

"We respect your sovereign decision to order our departure," said the letter, whose authenticity was confirmed by both Iraqi and US defence officials. Seely said the US-led coalition would "be repositioning forces over the course of the coming days and weeks". "In order to conduct this task, Coalition Forces are required to take certain measures to ensure that the movement out of Iraq is conducted in a safe and efficient manner," said the letter. It said helicopters would be travelling in and around Baghdad's Green Zone where the US embassy is located as part of the preparations.

AFP could hear helicopters flying low over Baghdad throughout the night on Monday. But Pentagon Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley said on Monday the letter was a mere "draft" and "should not have been sent". "This was a mistake," Milley told reporters. "It was a mistake, an honest mistake, a draft unsigned letter, because we are moving forces around," he said.

"It shouldn't have been sent," Milley said. US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said the letter was "inconsistent" with Washington's position, denying there has been a decision to leave Iraq.

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