Pentagon says leaked draft letter hinting at US troop withdrawal was a 'mistake' and that the US military isn't leaving Iraq

A U.S. Marine with 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines that is part of a quick reaction force
  • A leaked draft letter from a top US general overseeing the fight against ISIS in Iraq to the Iraqi military sparked concerns that the US was preparing to withdraw troops from the country.
  • The unsigned letter from Marine Brig. Gen. William Seely III states that the US military would be "repositioning forces over the course of the coming days and weeks to prepare for onward movement," specifically "movement out of Iraq." It was dated January 6, 2020.
  • Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told reporters Monday afternoon that "there's been no decision made to leave Iraq."
  • Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley clarified to reporters that the letter was a "mistake" and should not have been released.
  • See Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The Department of Defense has denied reports that the US military is planning to leave Iraq after a leaked draft letter from a top US general overseeing the fight against ISIS in Iraq sparked concerns Monday afternoon that the US was preparing to withdraw troops from the country.

The unsigned letter from Marine Brig. Gen. William Seely III, states that the US military will be "repositioning forces over the course of the coming days and weeks to prepare for onward movement," specifically "movement out of Iraq." The letter, a copy of which was posted on Twitter, said that the US was taking these steps "in due deference to the sovereignty of Iraq."
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The letter, which is dated January 6, 2020, appears to have been drafted in the wake of a vote by Iraqi lawmakers the day before to kick US troops out Iraq, a response to a US drone strike days earlier that killed Qassem Soleimani, a top Iranian general who commanded the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force.

"We respect your sovereign decision to order our departure," the letter says.

"I don't know what that letter is," Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told reporters Monday afternoon after the letter surfaced on social media. "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."
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Multiple outlets confirmed the authenticity of the draft letter, which can be seen in the tweet below.

"During this time, there will be an increase in helicopter travel in and around the International Zone (IZ) of Baghdad," the letter reads. "This increased traffic will include CH-47, UH-60, and AH-64 security escort helicopters."The withdrawal, according to the letter, was apparently to take place under the cover of darkness to prevent anyone from concluding that the US is moving more troops into the area.
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Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley clarified to reporters "that letter is a draft." He said: "It was a mistake. It should not have been released."

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