US defence chief denies decision to leave Iraq
US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper denied Monday (January 6th) that American forces would pull out of Iraq, after a US general's letter told the Iraqi government that troops were preparing to depart "in due deference to the sovereignty" of the country.
"There is no decision whatsoever to leave Iraq... There has been no decision made to leave Iraq. Period," the US defense secretary said, one day after the Iraqi parliament voted in favour of ordering the US military out.
"That letter is inconsistent with where we are right now," Esper added.
The official letter from US Brig. Gen. William Seely, the commanding general of Task Force Iraq, indicated that US forces were readying for departure.
But Pentagon Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley said the letter was only a "draft" that should not have been sent.
He said it was "poorly worded" and was actually meant to indicate the US was shifting troops between bases, and not withdrawing.
"It was a mistake, an honest mistake, a draft unsigned letter, because we are moving forces around," Milley told reporters.