The Pentagon mistakenly sent a letter to the Iraqi military suggesting troops were prepared to withdraw from Iraq after the country’s parliament voted to expel American troops.
“Sir, in deference to the sovereignty of the Republic of Iraq, and as requested by the Iraqi Parliament and the Prime Minister, [the Combined Joint Task Force] will be repositioning forces over the course of the coming days and weeks to prepare for onward movement,” said the letter, which was unsigned but marked as from Brigadier General William H. Seely III, the commanding general of Task Force Iraq, to the Iraqi Ministry of Defense.
“As we begin implementing this next phase of operations, I want to reiterate the value of our friendship and partnership,” the letter added. “We respect your sovereign decision to order our departure.”
The letter came after the Iraqi parliament approved a resolution calling on the government to revoke their invitation to US troops in response to the assassination of top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad last week.
Pentagon says it was a mistake:
"There has been no change in US policy with regard to our force presence in Iraq," the Pentagon said in a statement.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper initially 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,” he said.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley explained to reporters that the letter was a “mistake -- an honest mistake.”
"It was sent over to some Iraqi military guys in order get things coordinated for air movement, etc. And it went from that guy's hands into another guy's hands and then it went into your hands and now it's a kerfuffle. It's all over the news," he said.
Milley said the letter was “poorly worded” because it “implies withdrawal.”
"That letter is a draft. It was a mistake. It was unsigned. It should not have been released,” he said.
But Pentagon told lawmakers it was fake:
The Pentagon initially told members of Congress that the letter was fake, The Dispatch reports.
The Pentagon told lawmakers the letter was “active disinformation.”
“[Operation Inherent Resolve] has confirmed with us at the working level that this is active disinformation,” Pentagon staffer Annie Dreazen said in an email to the House Armed Services Committee.