April Fools came early for our friends in Iraq yesterday as the Defense Department mistakenly sent a letter to the Iraq government accepting their formal request for US troop withdrawal.
The Pentagon scrambled to correct the mistake after the draft, “sent” from Marine Corps Brig. Gen. William Seely, went out by mistake after the Iraqi Parliament voted to expel US troops.
The letter, which seems to accept Iraq’s request for withdrawal, reads in part,
“We respect your sovereign decision to order our departure.”
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Mark Milley, corrected the record saying,
“It was a mistake, it was unsigned, it should not have been released. It was poorly worded, implies withdrawal, and that is not what’s happening.”
He went on to explain that US forces will simply be moving positions and consolidating vulnerable locations.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper also issued a statement saying,
“That letter is inconsistent of where we are right now.”
Another reason for confusion is that the language contradicted the position of the Commander-in-Chief, President Donald Trump, who dismissed the vote which came in response to the airstrike on General Soleimani and threatened possible sanctions.
Pentagon Press Secretary Alyssa Farrah provided further clarification saying,
“There has been no change in US policy with regard to our force presence in Iraq. We continue to consult with the Iraqi government regarding the defeat-ISIS mission and efforts to support the Iraqi Security Forces.”
There are approximately 5,000 US troops currently stationed in Iraq.