Mixed signals from Pentagon on future of US troops in Iraq

Среда, 08 Янв, 2020

Vance says the decision to withdraw an unspecified number of troops was made alongside North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and Canada's allies to ensure their safety and security. "Period", Esper told reporters at the Pentagon on Monday, in what appears to have been an off-camera briefing. "We will follow the laws of armed conflict", Esper said.

The Iraqi resolution specifically calls for an end to an agreement by which Washington sent troops to Iraq over four years ago to help fight the Islamic State group.

The US would be "repositioning forces in coming days and weeks", as written in the letter after Iraqi MPs had asked for them to leave.

Iran's demand for United States forces to withdraw from the region gained traction on Sunday when Iraq's Parliament passed a resolution calling for all foreign troops to leave the country.

The resolution is non-binding, but reflects the growing frustration in Baghdad with continued United States operations in Iraq long after the official defeat of IS was proclaimed.

The authenticity of the letter, which was addressed to the Iraqi Joint Operations Command and carried by Iraqi media, could not be immediately verified by the Iraqi military.

Explaining the confusion, Pentagon Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley said the official USA letter informing Iraq that American troops would begin pulling out was "genuine" but not meant to be sent at this time.

The letter, which was quickly circulated online although not confirmed as authentic by on-the-record sources, was from U.S. Marine Corps Brig.

As the letter was signed by a U.S. official, it was not immediately clear whether it applied to forces from the 76 countries which make up the worldwide coalition.

He said the U.S. remains committed to the campaign to defeat the Islamic State group in Iraq and the region.

The "order" Seely mentioned was a reference to the Iraqi parliament's vote over the weekend to expel USA troops after an American drone attack killed a top Iranian general in Baghdad.

However, Pentagon Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley said the letter was only a "draft".

"Poorly worded, implies withdrawal", said Gen. Milley. It did not give a timeline.

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

A girl holds a picture of Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in an air strike at Baghdad airport, during a funeral ceremony rally to mourn his death, in Beirut's suburbs, Lebanon, January 5, 2020.

The resolution passed by a special session of the Iraqi parliament said the government should cancel its request for assistance from a US-led coalition.

The parliament was reacting several days after a US airstrike took out Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad.