An official US Army letter from international news agencies debated the departure of US troops from Iraq on Monday (6/1) – although it was later denied by the US government.
According to the letter obtained by Reuters and France Presse, the US-led military coalition is preparing to withdraw US troops in Iraq following a resolution passed the day before by the Iraqi Parliament unfolding the death of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in a drone attack. American in Baghdad.
"Sir, in deference to the sovereignty of the Republic of Iraq, and as requested by Parliament and the Prime Minister, the CJTF-OIR will reposition forces over the coming days and weeks," says the letter signed by US Brigadier General William H. Seely III, commander of the American Task Force in Iraq. "We respect your sovereign decision to order our departure."
CJTF-OIR stands for Combined Joint Task Force, an international coalition formed to combat the self-styled US-led Islamic State group in the Middle East. The letter was addressed to an Iraqi Ministry of Defense agency.
Reuters, as well as France Presse, had access to the letter and said it had confirmed its authenticity with an Iraqi military source. The Pentagon, however, did not confirm until the publication of this report.
However, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper has denied that the US has any plans to leave the Iraqi territory.
"There was no decision to leave Iraq," Esper told reporters in Washington when asked about the letter. "I don't know what this letter is. We're trying to figure out where it came from, what it is. But no decision has been made about leaving Iraq. Period."
Death of Soleimani
The withdrawal of US troops from Iraq was requested on Sunday in a resolution by the Iraqi Parliament, which called for the government to revoke its request for assistance from the US-led military coalition. Although the resolution was not binding and depended on the government for implementation, it gained momentum following statements by Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi.
"Despite the internal and external difficulties we may face, this is better for Iraq, in principle and in practice," Mahdi said of the expulsion of troops from the coalition.
This is a direct repercussion of the death of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani last Thursday in Iraqi territory.
The fact that US President Donald Trump ordered a drone strike to kill Soleimani in a convoy leaving Baghdad international airport was considered by Iraqi authorities to be a violation of Iraqi sovereignty and negotiated terms to authorize the presence. American in the country.
In addition, Soleimani had a strong influence on Iraqi Shiite militias. On Saturday, thousands of Iraqis took to the streets in different cities of the country for the funeral ceremonies in their honor before their remains were sent to Iran.
What says Trump
Today, the United States has about 5,000 military personnel in the country, most of them in positions of support to US forces in combating the Sunni Islamic State.
Officially, Trump responded to the Iraqi Parliament resolution on Sunday, saying there would be serious repercussions if Iraq expelled US troops from the country, such as US sanctions against Iraq.
He also said such a withdrawal would only occur if the Iraqi government paid for the air base the US built in the country.
"We have an extraordinarily expensive air base that is there. It cost billions of dollars to build, long before me (in the presidency). We won't leave unless they pay us," the president told reporters.
But according to Reuters, it was already possible to hear the heavy traffic of US military helicopters in Baghdad on Sunday night, apparently for the transport of military personnel out of the country. In the letter obtained by the agency, the US warns that during the "troop repositioning" period there would be "an increase in helicopter travel within and around Baghdad's international zone."
According to France Presse, as the letter was signed only by an American official, it is not clear whether troop withdrawal applies to all 76 countries that make up the task force.
Since the attack on Soleimani, rival Shiite leaders have called for US troops to be expelled from Iraq in an unusual display of unity between factions that often vie for power, Reuters reported.
At the geopolitical level, Iraq is in a delicate situation: it is both a US ally and a close ally of neighboring Iran, which has vowed revenge on the Americans for Soleimani's death.
In the midst of tension, the US had directed its citizens to leave Iraq immediately and sent 3,000 more troops to the Middle East.
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