In Brief

Is the US pulling out of Iraq?

Confusion after letter from US general announces ‘movement out of Iraq’

The US defence secretary has denied US troops are pulling out of Iraq, after a letter from a US general in the Middle Eastern country suggested a withdrawal was imminent.

Mark Esper insisted there had been “no decision whatsoever to leave” after a general’s letter said Washington would be “repositioning forces in the coming days and weeks to prepare for onward movement”.

The letter from Brig Gen William H. Seely, head of the US military's task force in Iraq, says measures will be conducted “during hours of darkness” to “ensure the movement out of Iraq is conducted in a safe and efficient manner”.

Amid what The Guardian describes as “scenes of confusion in Washington,” Esper told reporters: “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.”

The chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Gen Mark Milley, said: “That letter is a draft, it was a mistake, it was unsigned, it should not have been released.” He described it as: “poorly worded, implies withdrawal, that is not what’s happening”.

The confusion comes after Iraqi lawmakers voted in favour of the departure of American troops from their country.

Iraqi politician Faleh al-Khazali said: “Trump should know that Iraq is not an American state and Iraqi prime minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi should bear responsibility. We demand all US troops to leave Iraq and Iraqi government should consider them as occupiers.”

However, The Times notes that on Sunday, Trump said that if US forces left on anything other than “a very friendly basis” he would impose sanctions on Iraq.

The US president also said he would demand to be repaid for the “extraordinarily expensive airbase” the United States had built.

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